SAF captain found guilty of causing NSF Liu Kai’s death in training exercise
Ong Lin Jie failed to establish that it was safe to ovetake by first communicating with the crew of the Bionix.
A captain from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was on Monday (Nov 22) found guilty of carrying out a rash act that caused the death of a full-time national serviceman at a military training exercise in 2018.
In delivering her verdict, District Judge Jasvender Kaur said that she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Captain Ong Lin Jie’s acts led to serviceman Liu Kai’s death.
The fatal accident happened along Jalan Murai near Lim Chu Kang in November 2018.
At the time, Ong was the vehicle commander of a Land Rover driven by Corporal First Class Liu, who was aged 22.
The court heard that Ong, now 30, needed to be driven around in the Land Rover, so that he could oversee aspects of the field exercise.
Ong was a regular officer and platoon trainer with the Armour Unit Training Centre. He was taking part in a three-day field exercise with Liu.
They were travelling behind a Bionix armoured vehicle when Ong ordered Liu to overtake it.
Yet Ong failed to establish that it was safe to do so by first communicating with the crew of the Bionix.
During his trial, which began in March, Ong told the court that he had observed the situation and thought it was safe to do so.
In the midst of overtaking the Bionix, Liu heard shots being fired and stopped the Land Rover 16m to 18m behind the Bionix.
Based on SAF's training safety regulations, the Land Rover should have kept a safe distance of 30m from the Bionix to prevent any danger or collision, and allow enough time to react.
As part of a combat drill, the Bionix then began to reverse and mounted the driver’s side of the Land Rover.
Liu was pronounced dead at the scene, with an autopsy showing that he died from traumatic asphyxia, an injury that interrupts breathing.
Ong had been suspended from service since the incident.
In March, he pleaded not guilty to carrying out a rash act that caused Liu’s death.
District Judge Kaur said on Monday that in the more than five months that Ong was investigated after the incident, he suppressed the fact that he ordered Liu to overtake the Bionix.
Yet, when he was confronted with the “incontrovertible evidence, he had selective amnesia”.
“The irresistible conclusion must be that the accused was unable to explain how he had properly considered the situation before directing the overtaking,” she said.
In response to media queries after the verdict was delivered, the Ministry of Defence said that SAF has reminded military commanders that they would be 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,” the ministry said.
Ong will be sentenced on Dec 20.
He could be jailed for up to five years or fined, or punished with both.
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