SINGAPORE: It took 36 minutes for Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel to pull a full-time national serviceman from a well, after his colleagues pushed him in as part of a celebration for reaching his Operationally Ready Date (ORD).
ORD refers to the day a national serviceman completes his enlistment.
This was a key finding by a Board of Inquiry (BOI) convened to investigate the death of NSF Kok Yuen Chin after the celebrations turned tragic. On May 13, Corporal (CPL) Kok was found unconscious at the bottom of a 12m-deep fire station pump well which was filled with water.
The BOI interviewed and obtained statements from more than 50 people including SCDF servicemen from Tuas View Fire Station where CPL Kok was stationed. It also reviewed evidence relevant to the incident and released its recommendations on Thursday (Sep 13).
READ: SCDF NSF death - Board of Inquiry recommends decommissioning pump wells, review of anti-ragging measures
These are the BOI's findings on how events unfolded on May 13:
8.40pm to about 9.04pm: Celebration at the watch room
Between 8.40pm and 9.04pm, the Rota 3 personnel on duty held a celebration at the station’s watch room to mark CPL Kok’s impending ORD. A plaque and cake were presented to CPL Kok by the rota as part of the celebration.
In the context of a fire station, a rota is a team comprising fire and rescue specialists and paramedics who are on standby duty to provide emergency services.
The celebration for CPL Kok was an initiative by members of his rota and paid for by the servicemen themselves.
9.04pm to 9.07pm: Ragging
After the celebration, CPL Kok was carried by certain members of his rota to the pump well, where he sat on its edge. At 9.07pm, one of the officers went behind him to push him into the well as "kolam" - a ragging ritual which translates to "pool" in Malay.
9.07pm to 9.43pm: Rescue
CPL Kok did not re-surface after being pushed into the pump well. The first serviceman jumped into the well eight seconds after CPL Kok was pushed into it, in an attempt to rescue CPL Kok. Other servicemen jumped in thereafter as well, but to no avail.
The servicemen then used a fire engine suction pump to pump water out of the pump well and those jumping in then used breathing apparatus in order to dive deeper into the well. One of the servicemen subsequently located CPL Kok in the well.
The servicemen then worked together to use ropes to pull CPL Kok out. CPL Kok was extracted from the pump well at 9.43pm, about 36 minutes after he had fallen in.
9.43pm to 11.02pm: Medical response
Paramedics who attended to the incident tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate CPL Kok after he was extracted at 9.43pm, before taking him to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, reaching there at 10.13pm.
CPL Kok was pronounced dead at 11.02pm.
An autopsy found the cause of death to be drowning.
Sep 13, 2018:
The SCDF said it would reinforce a culture of care and safety, as well as decommission all 19 pump wells located at fire stations, following recommendations by the BOI.
An SCDF officer was jailed for one year and four weeks after pleading guilty to causing death by a rash act and abetting the obstruction of justice.
Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood was the first of five men charged over the incident to plead guilty and be charged.
Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi pleaded guilty to one charge of intentionally obstructing the course of justice by deleting the video showing CPL Kok being pushed into the pump well.
Jun 14, 2019:
A forensic pathologist reported that CPL Kok had bruises on his head, as well as small injuries around his body, plant material in his lungs and swelling in his brain.
There were also two patches where blood had collected under the skin on his scalp.
The SCDF officer who found CPL Kok’s body recounted in court that he had told a colleague to go quickly into the well after CPL Kok was pushed in.
In videos shown to court, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Ng Meng Kiat was depicted running ahead of men carrying CPL Kok to the pump well so he could open a gate. He told the court he had thought they were “playing a prank” on CPL Kok.
First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh claimed trial to one charge of instigating his colleague Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood to push CPL Kok in.
Farid was found guilty of abetting Fatwa by instigating him into committing a rash act that caused CPL Kok’s death.
District Judge Victor Yeo pointed out that Fatwa had "candidly admitted" to his involvement in the incident, and had pleaded guilty to the charges he faced.