Aloysius Pang death: SAF reduces training for safety review
Top generals apologise after tragic accident that claimed life of actor Aloysius Pang, who was on reservist duty in New Zealand
Actor Aloysius Pang was crushed inside the cabin of a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer by the breech of its gun barrel, which was being lowered.
Details of the tragic accident were revealed during a media briefing by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) yesterday.
The howitzer's gun barrel typically weighs at least 3,000kg.
Corporal First Class (NS) Pang, an armament technician, died in hospital on Wednesday, four days after he was injured while carrying out repairs in the cabin of the howitzer during Exercise Thunder Warrior in New Zealand.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong said at the briefing that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will lower its training tempo so that commanders and troops can review the safety of its systems and processes.
An army-wide safety timeout has also been called, he added.
On the change in tempo, which is a first for the SAF, Lt-Gen Ong said: "This will take the form of lowering the duration, the intensity, the frequency of existing training, take some things out, to do training better at a more sustainable pace, to focus on safety.
"This reduction of training tempo following the safety timeout will be enforced for as long as it takes for us to get it right. And we want to do it right, we want to do it safe for every activity, we want to do it right every time."
An independent Committee of Inquiry will also be convened to investigate the incident.
Lt-Gen Ong added that he held a safety call yesterday morning with 1,200 army commanders as well as trainers.
"I've told all my commanders that this cannot be business as usual," he said.
"Every serviceman is a son, is a brother, a husband or a father, and we owe it to them and their loved ones that they return home safe."
Lt-Gen Ong said a reduced tempo would not affect SAF's operational readiness because those on operations and deployments would not be involved.
Pang's death is the fifth reported training-related fatality in the SAF since Sept 2017, after four years of no deaths.
Touching on the initial findings of the circumstances leading to Pang's death, Chief of Army Major-General Goh Si Hou explained that as the gun barrel is being lowered, its breech, or its rear, would rise inside the cabin.
If the barrel is fully upright, the lowering process usually takes about 10 seconds .
It was during this time that the rising breech trapped Pang and crushed him against the cabin wall.
Maj-Gen Goh said that based on initial findings, Pang was "unable to get out of the way".
He added that while the space in the cabin is reduced when the gun barrel is lowered, it was "typically sufficient" for personnel to still be able to operate inside.
"We're very sorry at the loss of a fellow soldier, a precious son," he said.
"I extend again our heartfelt condolences to Aloysius' family and loved ones. We are all saddened by this incident."
Another technician and a gun detachment commander who were inside the cabin with Pang were not injured.
Commander Combat Service and Support Command (CSSCOM) Colonel Terry Tan said there are standard operating procedures when the gun barrel is to be lowered.
The operator and technician must link up and discuss the plan, he said, before a command is given to lower the barrel.
A verbal warning is then given, and the commander will visually check that the area is clear before the button to lower the barrel is pressed.
Col Tan said Pang was given a refresher course before the start of Exercise Thunder Warrior, and he had been through in-camp training, five times high-key and twice low-key, and was "qualified and competent" to do his job.
Maj-Gen Goh said investigations have not found anything that could have impeded Pang's movement during the incident.
News of Pang's injury broke on Sunday after he was admitted to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, New Zealand.
On Monday, Mindef said he was in stable condition after two successful operations.
But he needed a third surgery on Wednesday to repair his damaged lungs, heart and kidneys, and was put on life support.
He died at 8.45pm (Singapore time) later that day.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen posted on Facebook yesterday that a Republic of Singapore Air Force plane was on its way to New Zealand to repatriate Pang's body.
Emphasising the need for safety, he said: "We can only train when it is safe. If any SAF soldier detects an unsafe practice, he should inform his commander or stop training to protect himself or his buddies.
"No one needs to fear any disciplinary action for doing right to protect lives during training."