NSF Dave Lee case: SAF regrets that commanders did not perform their duties well, says Mindef

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regrets that the commanders involved in the incident that caused Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee’s death in 2018 failed to ensure the well-being of soldiers under their care, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 28), Mindef said that commanders who breached training and discipline regulations in this incident “failed in their duties and have been dealt with accordingly”.

“Safety of our soldiers is a core value and should never be compromised during training,” it said.

It added: “CFC Lee was an exemplary soldier who served with commitment. His passing is a sad loss to his family and to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). We express our deep condolences to the late CFC Lee’s family.”

The post came a day after State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam issued findings into the full-time national serviceman’s (NSF’s) death, including how he died of heatstroke and that there was no basis to suspect foul play.

CFC Lee, who was 19, was a guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards who collapsed after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 18, 2018.

Among the lapses in the incident was how CFC Lee, who was seen to be having difficulty walking and speaking after crossing the finish line at 8.25am, was evacuated only much later at 9.05am.

This delay in the evacuation was a contributing factor in CFC Lee’s death, the court heard earlier this month.

Mindef reiterated the punishment that were dealt to seven commanders involved, including Captain Tan Baoshu, the supervising officer of the fast march, who was charged in the State Courts in October 2018 for causing the death of CFC Lee by a rash act.

The Courts granted him a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in January last year (2020) after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

Six other servicemen, who were referred by the police to Mindef for investigation into breaches of military law, were convicted and sentenced in military court after pleading guilty.

“They are not fit for and have been removed from positions of command,” said Mindef on Thursday.

Since the incident, the SAF has enhanced its heat injury management and prevention protocols in line with recommendations from external panels, added Mindef.

“The SAF will continually strive to improve our safety systems to achieve zero training fatalities even as we train our soldiers to defend Singapore against all threats.”

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