NSF killed in Bionix case: Officer convicted of rash act to be sentenced next month
A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) captain linked to an incident where a Bionix infantry fighting vehicle reversed and mounted a Land Rover, killing the driver, will be sentenced next month after he engaged a new lawyer.
Ong Lin Jie's defence lawyer is now Mr R. Thrumurgan from Trident Law. The 30-year-old Singaporean was formerly represented by Mr Teo Choo Kee.
On Monday (Dec 20), Mr Thrumurgan told District Judge Jasvender Kaur that he took over the case last Friday and needed more time to look into it.
Ong's case has now been adjourned to Jan 21 for his mitigation and sentencing.
Last month, Judge Kaur convicted him of committing a rash act that led to the death of 22-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF) Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu Kai.
The tragedy took place during an exercise by the 42nd Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment on Nov 3, 2018.
Ong was found to have acted rashly by failing to keep a safe distance of 30m between the Land Rover and the Bionix and ordering CFC Liu to overtake the Bionix.
Ong, who was a platoon trainer with the Armour Unit Training Centre at the Armour Training Institute at the time, had given the order for the Land Rover to move forward even though it was unsafe to do so and without first establishing communication with the other vehicle.
In their submissions earlier this year, Deputy Public Prosecutors Hay Hung Chun, Zhou Yihong, Angela Ang and Benedict Chan said the 30m safety distance rule was "one key safety tenet" taught to all commanders within the armour formation, including Ong, and would be re-emphasised during safety briefings prior to all armour exercises.
The prosecutors had also stressed that the purpose of maintaining this safety distance is to ensure that all parties have sufficient reaction time to avoid any potential collisions.
During the exercise, a Bionix with call sign BX13 had stopped just before a T-junction. The Land Rover Ong and CFC Liu were in stopped about 30m behind it.
During an earlier court proceeding, the prosecutors said Ong did not know why BX13 had stopped and ordered CFC Liu to overtake it on its left.
The DPPs added: "Prior to giving this order, (Ong) did not establish any communications with BX13. Liu Kai drove the Land Rover forward, thereby bringing it less than 30m away from BX13.
"BX13 fired three rounds (and) Liu Kai stopped the Land Rover."
At this point, the Land Rover was about 16m to 18m behind BX13, which started to reverse as part of the combat drill. It mounted the driver side of the Land Rover, pinning CFC Liu in his seat.
Ong had testified during the trial in June that he did not expect BX13 to move backwards. He has since been suspended from service.
In an earlier statement, the Ministry of Defence said: "The (SAF) has reminded commanders that they are held accountable for the safety of personnel under their charge and must adhere to training safety regulations.
"Those who are negligent or breach training safety regulations may face prosecution under the law or the SAF's disciplinary framework."
For causing death by committing a rash act, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined.