SAF officer charged over death of NSF Liu Kai, 5 others charged with leaking photos

SAF officer charged over death of NSF Liu Kai, 5 others charged with leaking photos

An officer from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was charged in court on Friday (Oct 25) over the death of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai. Ahmad Khan reports.

SINGAPORE: An officer from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was charged in court on Friday (Oct 25) over the death of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai.

Captain Ong Lin Jie, 28, was charged with one count of doing a rash act causing death. 

Five other people accused of leaking photographs of the incident were charged with wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act. 

Corporal First Class Liu, 22, died after an accident at Jalan Murai training area on Nov 3 last year. He was driving a Land Rover as part of a field training exercise when a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle reversed into his vehicle and partially mounted it. 

The wake of the late NSF Liu Kai
The wake of the late NSF Liu Kai, who died in a training incident on Nov 3. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

READ: Death of NSF Liu Kai: Bionix driver continued reversing despite stop commands, police investigating comms between crew

CPT Ong, who was the vehicle commander of the Land Rover, is accused of failing to keep a safe distance of 30m between the vehicle and the Bionix. This caused the Bionix to reverse and mount the driver's side of the vehicle, causing CFC Liu's death, court documents said.

In November last year, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it filed a police report against five of its NSFs for taking and circulating photos of the accident.

The photo, which has been circulated on social media, shows a Bionix on top of a crushed Land Rover. SCDF personnel and an ambulance can be seen in the background.

READ: Leaked photo of Bionix accident: SCDF files police report against 5 NSFs

Muhammad Arif Azman and Mohamad Haikal Mohamad Zainal Abiddin, two of the five people accused of leaking photographs, were serving their National Service with the SCDF at the time of the incident.

"(They) were at the scene where they took photographs of the incident and disseminated them via WhatsApp," said the police. 

Arif, 22, faces two charges – sending two photographs of the accident to 23 other people in a WhatsApp group chat and failing to comply with his captain's orders to delete the photographs from his phone.

Haikal, 20, was charged with sending five photographs of the incident to the group chat. He faces an additional two charges of sending the photographs to two people separately on WhatsApp.

Mohamad Haikal Mohamad Zainal Abiddin
Mohamad Haikal Mohamad Zainal Abiddin leaving the State Courts on Oct 25, 2019. (Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY)

READ: Enhancements to Bionix safety among measures put in place following COI findings into NSF Liu Kai’s death: Ng Eng Hen

The other three accused, Brandon Tan Jien Jet, 21, Thng Yu Xuan, 21, and Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar, 23, received the photos and shared them, despite knowing that they were "sensitive official information", according to the police.

Tan was charged with sending two photographs to six other individuals in a WhatsApp group chat, Thng was charged with sending four photographs to five other people and Zaki was charged with sending two photographs to another person, also via WhatsApp.

Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar
Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar was charged on Friday Oct 25, 2019.  (Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY)

If convicted of a rash act causing death, CPT Ong faces up to five years' jail, a fine, or both. He will return to court on Nov 21.

If convicted of wrongful communication of official information, the other five can be fined up to S$2,000 and jailed for up to two years.

Haikal is scheduled to return to court on Nov 22. Arif, Tan, Thng and Zaki have indicated that they intend to plead guilty.

READ: Aloysius Pang was 4th SAF training fatality in 18 months

Following a Committee of Inquiry's investigation into CFC Liu's death, enhancements were made to all Bionix vehicles in SAF's training fleet. These include the installation of two more e-horn buttons and rear-view cameras. 

The rear-view camera system to be installed in the Bionix
The rear-view camera system installed in the Bionix (Photo: MINDEF)

Several safety measures were also put into place, such as conducting safety tabletop exercises before high-risk non-live firing exercises and having more experienced regular trainers on the ground.

Source: CNA/ic(cy)

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