Red Lions to freefall only at the Padang this NDP, amid review of jumps , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Red Lions to freefall only at the Padang this NDP, amid review of jumps

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The Red Lions will jump over only one location at the National Day Parade (NDP) in 2023, and will not land at various locations in the heartland as they did during the Covid-19 period, The Straits Times has learnt.

According to tender documents seen by ST calling for a contractor to make jump-suits for parachutists from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), freefall display operations will happen only at the Padang.

This comes amid a review of such jumps that was triggered by an incident in which a Red Lion parachutist was injured while making a rough landing during NDP 2022.

“For NDP23, Authority (the Red Lions) will conduct freefall display operations in Padang only,” said the tender.

Third Warrant Officer (3WO) Jeffrey Heng was stretchered off after a rough landing at the Marina Bay floating platform on Aug 9, 2022. He was the last of 10 Red Lion parachutists to land during the jump segment.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said a day later that while 3WO Heng was injured, he did not require surgery and was expected to make a full recovery.

In that same week, Dr Ng said a review committee led by the SAF Inspector-General Office had been convened to assess the cause of the incident. The committee includes independent skydiving and military freefall experts outside of the SAF.

The review’s outcomes have not been shared, although the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) provided an interim update in September 2022.

Possible measures the committee was looking at to enhance safety included increasing the distance between parachutists so as to give them more reaction time as they approached the landing zone, and to enable the landings to be more spaced out.

The Red Lions will continue to be a part of NDP celebrations only if safety can be ensured with appropriate new measures that included those recommended by the review committee, Dr Ng said in a written parliamentary reply.

The Straits Times has contacted Mindef about the review’s outcome, and whether the lack of heartland jumps is a result of it.

Red Lions have been injured in previous incidents, including one in 2005 at the Padang where a parachutist fractured his hip after taking a hard landing during a parade rehearsal.

In July 2021, a parachutist took a hard fall and had to be stretchered off during an afternoon jump in Bishan. The Red Lions parachutist had a flag attached to him that got caught in the grass as he was about to land.

In 2020, 2021 and 2022, the daredevil freefallers landed at several locations across the island to bring the parade to Singaporeans amid restrictions on crowd sizes that limited celebrations at the Marina Bay area.

Among the spots in Housing Board towns that the parachutists landed in were fields in housing estates and outside hospitals as a salute to front-line staff involved in the fight against Covid-19.

Third Warrant Officer Jeffrey Heng was the last of 10 parachutists to land.  PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM NDPEEPS/YOUTUBE
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