Family members of late NSF plead with army mates to tell the full truth as SAF Commander claims measures were taken to prevent heatstroke

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Family members of the full-time national serviceman (NSF) who passed away on Monday are pleading with the late NSF’s army mates to tell the “full truth” during investigations.

Private Dave Lee Han Xuan, was conveyed to Changi General Hospital (CGH) on 18 April after an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp. The Guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards fell into a coma and spent 12 days at CGH’s Intensive Care Unit as his condition worsened, before he passed away at 5.32pm on Monday, a mere 10 days after his 19th birthday.

Following Private Lee’s untimely passing, the army confirmed that the late NSF will be accorded a military funeral and will be awarded the Guards and Recon military tabs, as well as the Guards beret he had been training for. Private Lee also received posthumous recognition of the rank of Corporal First Class (CFC).

While CFC Lee’s parents are reserving their comments until investigations conclude, his aunts, Michelle and Cecilia Yeo, have both been vocal in their demand for the authorities to give the public a full explanation on what happened the day their nephew collapsed.

This, after a letter by an anonymous soldier detailing what allegedly happened that night began circulating online. The author of the viral letter claims that CFC Lee was “forced” to complete the fast march even though he showed clear signs of severe heat exhaustion.

The alleged soldier also claimed that “the commanders did not follow the proper protocol for a soldier in heat exhaution” and “to add insult to injury, the sergeants were just surrounding him, talking cock and laughing and cracking jokes around him, obviously thinking the soldier is trying to keng.”

More recently, both CFC Lee’s aunts have appealed to their nephew’s army mates to tell the full truth during investigations, adding that this is the last thing they could do for CFC Lee whose passing has shattered their family:

To all Army mates and witnesses on that fateful day , please speak out for Dave where he can no longer do that…

Posted by Michelle Yeo on Thursday, 3 May 2018

If Dave had touched your life in anyway and you can see and feel how this incident has shattered our family and his…

Posted by Cecilia Yeo on Wednesday, 2 May 2018

CFC Lee’s aunts’ appeal comes as a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Commander asserted yesterday that measures such as mandatory water parades and temperature checks to prevent heatstroke were taken for CFC Lee.

Writing in a letter to The Straits Times, Commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, Brigadier-General (BG) Kenneth Liow said that CFC Lee’s temperature was normal before he began the 8km fast march.

Besides the mandatory water parades and temperature checks, commanders and soldiers were reportedly reminded to look out for signs of heat injury during training. BG Liow added that when CFC Lee was found to be affected by heat injury, on-site cooling measures like the removal of clothes and application of ice water were employed.

He further elaborated that a custom-built evaporative body cooling unit at the medical centre was used for CFC Lee and that he was evacuated to the nearest hospital since his condition was severe, in accordance to protocol. BG Liow said: “All these measures were taken for CFC Lee. We are deeply saddened that despite this, his condition did not improve.”

Noting that there were “no recorded fatalities” in the past 9 years due to heat injury or heat stroke, BG Liow said, “The SAF does indeed seek to achieve zero fatalities and will continually put in place safety systems to achieve this.” He emphasised: “The SAF will spare no effort in improving our systems to achieve zero fatalities.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has revealed that a Committee of Inquiry (COI) has been convened to investigate the circumstances leading to CFC Lee’s death and that the COI will be chaired by a cluster superintendent from the Ministry of Education. MINDEF added that one of the committee’s members is a medical specialist from the public healthcare sector.

MINDEF said: “The COI has full powers and access to information and personnel to investigate the circumstances leading to the death, determine the contributory factors and make recommendations to rectify any lapses uncovered.”

The Ministry added that the police will also conduct investigations independently, while a coroner’s inquiry may be held, depending on the outcome of the investigations.

Adding that it has implemented recommendations from previous COIs to improve the SAF’s safety systems and processes, MINDEF said: “The SAF takes the safety of our servicemen seriously and will make things right if there are inadequacies uncovered. The Army is committed to ensuring that our soldiers train realistically and safely.”

It added: “The Army’s focus is on rendering assistance and support to the family of the late CFC Dave Lee during this period of grief. An SAF Family Liaison Officer has been assigned to support the family. Family Support Officers and counsellors from the SAF Counselling Centre are also on standby to support.”

CFC Lee’s military funeral will take place tomorrow.