There will be no inquest into the accidental death of Singaporean actor Aloysius Pang, who was injured in a training exercise at the New Zealand Defence Force base south of Taupō in January and succumbed to those injuries shortly afterward.
On January 19, the 28-year-old actor was part of a training exercise in Waiouru, which more than 500 Singaporean soldiers participated in. The military of New Zealand hosts this exercise, Exercise Thunder Warrior, but only Singaporean forces participate in it.
As he was repairing the gun of a self-propelled Howitzer, the gun barrel lowered, crushing him between the barrel and the cabin of the vehicle. He sustained severe injuries to his stomach and chest.
Mr Pang, a Corporal First Class in Singapore’s National Service, with the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery and who was assigned as an armament technician in the exercise, received immediate medical attention. He underwent several surgeries in Waikato Hospital but unfortunately died on January 24.
The New Zealand Defence Force will not be launching an internal inquiry into the passing of Mr Pang, but it will be aiding in Singapore’s investigation, which is still ongoing. It is expected to reach completion within the next few months.
The New Zealand coroner’s report read that it is “unlikely that the Attorney General will direct an inquiry.”
The Coroner issued a report on February 28, entitled, “Notification of Coroner’s Decision Not to Open Inquiry” in the matter of Aloysius Pang Wei Chong, and addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Justice, in Wellington.
It contains the personal information of Mr Pang, as well as the circumstances of his demise.
The direct cause of death is listed as “Blunt trauma; mechanical recoil equipment.”
Under circumstances of death, the following is written:
“Mr Pang Wei Chong was a member of the Singapore military and was in NZ on training deployment. He was at the Waiouru army training facility where he was engaged in the maintenance of large field guns.
On 19 January 2019, he was completing repair work inside a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer at the Waiouru training area. He subsequently sustained injuries to his abdomen area.
On 20 January 2019, he underwent surgery at Waikato Hospital to repair a ruptured left diaphragm and remove dead bowel tissue. On 21 and 23 January 2019, further operations were conducted.
His condition deteriorated and he passed away on 24 January 2019.”
The Coroner stated her reasons for her decision.
“Pursuant to section 19 of the Visiting Forces Act 2004, a coroner must not open an inquiry unless directed to do so by the New Zealand Attorney General. The Attorney General was advised on the death on 24 January 2019. The New Zealand Police have not treated this death as suspicious and therefore it is unlikely that the Attorney General will direct an inquiry. The Singapore Army is conducting its own injury.”
On January 31, in the wake of the death of Mr Pang as well as three other recent SAF-related deaths, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong announced that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be establishing an Inspector-General’s Office (IGO) whose purpose it is to make sure that “command emphasis on safety is consistently applied” for all the units of the armed forces.
The new IGO will directly report to the Chief of Defence Force and has complete authority to examine and implement safety practices and processes for all levels of SAF.