It has been more than three months since the training accident that led to the death of Aloysius Pang. In a ministerial statement on 6 May, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament that there was no evidence indicating that foul play or deliberate acts caused the accident.
The five-membered Committee of Inquiry (COI) also stated that the accident was due to lapses by Pang and two other servicemen who were in the Singapore Self – Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) at that time.
The COI found the “precipitating cause” of the incident was that the gun barrel was lowered without ensuring that everyone was in a safe position:
- Pang was standing in the path of the moving barrel and not in a safe position prior to the barrel being lowered;
- Pang did not move to a safe position despite being warned that the barrel was going to be lowered to a standby position;
- The regular technician did not ensure that Pang moved to a safe position despite knowing that the barrel would be lowered;
- The gun commander proceeded to move the barrel despite noticing that Pang was not in a safe position, which goes against a requirement stated in the SSPH operator’s manual;
- Both the gun commander and regular technician failed to press the emergency stop buttons to stop the barrel movement.
The COI also said that a combination of factors contributed to the incident:
- There was a lack of clarity on who should be in the gun and whether acknowledgement was needed before the barrel was moved, pointing to a lack of coordinated safety control procedure between the gun and maintenance crew;
- The regular technician had started on a specific maintenance task before the barrel was in a locked position, which goes against a requirement stated in the maintenance manual for SSPH technicians, to “get on with the job quickly”;
- The regular technician and gun commander had miscalculated the space in the cabin and the time it took for the flick rammer (the rear end of the barrel in the cabin) to hit Pang;
- In their state of panic, the regular technician and gun commander had “acted irrationally” instead of pressing the emergency stop buttons when the flick rammer hit Pang.
Whether there will be any prosecution for any servicemen is up to the Chief Military Prosecutor once the SAF’s Special Investigation Branch completes their investigation.
The COI is added that the post- incident medical care was “adequate but can be improved”. The COI also opined that this does not contribute to Pang’s death.
It doesn’t matter if you are in support of Aloysius Pang or MINDEF; what is done cannot be undone. What we should do is learn from this and move forward as a nation. Such accidents can be prevented if we follow safety rules.
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