Neglect of protocol led to Aloysius Pang's death
Committee of Inquiry finds that all three servicemen in cabin of artillery gun were responsible for lapses that led to his death
There were only three servicemen in the cabin of the artillery gun, and all of them, including Corporal First Class (National Service) Aloysius Pang, were responsible for lapses that led to his death.
The Committee of Inquiry's (COI's) findings were revealed yesterday in Parliament by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, showing how CFC(NS) Pang, the unnamed Third Sergeant (NS) gun commander and regular Military Expert 2 technician all neglected protocol.
In response to questions from MPs, Dr Ng said it was a preventable tragedy.
"It is tragic. If any one of the three in the cabin... had followed the rules, this wouldn't have happened," he said.
"The COI stated that clearly... all three ignored the safety rules."
CFC(NS) Pang had left Singapore on Jan 5 for Exercise Thunder Warrior at Waiouru Military Training Area, New Zealand, as part of his seventh In-Camp Training.
While conducting maintenance work on the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) during a live firing exercise on Jan 19, the late actor was caught between the cabin interior and the gun barrel as it was being lowered.
He died on Jan 23 in Waikato Hospital from sepsis arising from his severe chest and abdominal injuries.
Dr Ng explained how the incident leading to the actor's death unfolded on Jan 19. (See graphic below.)
It showed a number of safety lapses by all three, including how CFC(NS) Pang declined to move to a safe position and continued working as the gun barrel was lowered.
When the barrel made contact with him, both the gun commander and technician panicked and acted irrationally, instead of pressing the red emergency stop buttons which were located within a foot of each of them.
Dr Ng said: "It is sad but undeniable that the direct causes determined by the COI that resulted in the death of CFC(NS) Pang were preventable had there been compliance to safety rules. It was not for lack of knowledge of these rules or inexperience of personnel working on the SSPH gun."
The COI made several recommendations to prevent similar incidents.
These included enhancing army safety culture and training, reviewing emergency drills and ensuring compliance to standard operating procedures.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Inspector-General's Office, set up in end February, also noted the need for an ingrained safety culture.
Dr Ng also outlined the judicial process that will be taken.
The SAF's Special Investigation Branch is almost done with its investigations and will report to the Chief Military Prosecutor, who will decide if any servicemen will be prosecuted in a military court for offences related to CFC(NS) Pang's death.
The servicemen who are under investigation have been reassigned to administrative duties pending the decision.
Following the ministerial statement, nominated MP Walter Theseira asked if there were any operational reasons declared by the personnel as to why protocol was not followed.
In response, Dr Ng said there were none.
He said: "The reason given was that they wanted to get on with it. They couldn't wait for the few seconds for whatever reasons."
But when asked by Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan if there was any time pressure on the servicemen, Dr Ng said the COI did not mention that time pressure was in any way contributory to the tragedy.
Dr Ng also told Parliament that CFC(NS) Pang's family have been updated on the findings and actions taken.