COI report: Bionix kept reversing despite orders
Defence Minister reveals COI's preliminary findings into death of CFC Liu Kai last year
Using his helmet's intercom, the specialist at the rear of the Bionix armoured vehicle repeatedly ordered the driver to stop reversing.
He even gestured in vain at the Land Rover in the Bionix's path to move away.
Eight seconds later, the Bionix mounted the Land Rover, killing its driver, Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu Kai, 22.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed in Parliament yesterday the Committee of Inquiry's (COI) preliminary findings into the transport operator's death.
The full-time national serviceman (NSF) was driving a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regular captain from the Active Unit Training Centre during an exercise conducted by the 42nd Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment at the Jalan Murai training area on Nov 3 last year.
The trainer, who was the vehicle commander, was evaluating the troops. A timeline of the incident was put together based on witnesses and footage from the Land Rover's front and in-cabin cameras.
The exercise starts at 7am. CFC Liu and the trainer follow a Bionix, which has a four-man NSF crew - a driver and a gunner (both corporals), a second lieutenant vehicle commander and a third sergeant rear guide for when it reverses as the driver has no rear view.
At 9.58am, the Bionix crew spots other exercise vehicles passing by a junction, and its commander tells them to stop.
The trainer tells CFC Liu to overtake the Bionix, but before he can do so, shots are fired as part of the exercise.
Four seconds later, the Bionix reverses as part of the standard extrication drill to avoid the enemy encounter.
The rear guide is seen gesturing at the Land Rover to move away. He is also seen using his helmet intercom - his only way to communicate with the crew members - to tell the driver to stop reversing.
About eight seconds later, the Bionix crashes into and mounts the Land Rover on the driver's side, trapping CFC Liu. The trainer escapes and notifies the conducting officer who stops the exercise.
A medic attends to CFC Liu, who is pronounced dead by the unit's medical officer at about 10.35am. Cause of death was traumatic asphyxia, caused by the chest being suddenly compressed.
The intercom system was working earlier, and the COI has asked for an independent technical assessment on whether it was working properly throughout.
Police investigations are also focused on whether the crew's communications were affected by the equipment.
Video showed the trainer tapping CFC Liu, signalling for him to reverse the Land Rover when the Bionix did so. Beep sounds indicated CFC Liu had engaged the reverse gear.
The duo also shouted and gestured for the Bionix to stop.
Based on the COI's calculations, the Land Rover had stopped at most 19.8m behind the Bionix before it reversed. This was short of the required 30m safety distance, which the vehicle commander is responsible for ensuring.
The Bionix had drifted while reversing so the driver made a slight left steer, putting it into the path of the Land Rover.
The Bionix and Land Rover had no mechanical problems.
The COI's preliminary findings did not address:
- Whether the Bionix driver had heard the rear guide's commands;
- If the Bionix vehicle commander had used the emergency horn (e-horn); and
- Why the trainer had asked CFC Liu to overtake the Bionix.
The servicemen involved have been re-deployed to non-operational roles.
Since last November, all Bionix vehicles in SAF's training fleet have been retrofitted with two e-horn buttons in the rear crew compartment.
From March until 2020, rear-view cameras will be progressively installed in all training Bionix vehicles.
Rear view cameras and mirrors will also be progressively installed on all heavy wheeled vehicles, such as five-tonners.
The army is studying if the new safety features ought to be incorporated for other operational vehicles.
From March, medics will upgrade their resuscitation skills and handling of emergencies with attachments to hospital emergency departments or ambulances.
Trainers will join exercise troops in combat vehicles during high-risk training.
Drivers will need the rear guide's explicit clearance for all reversing manoeuvres, including extrication drills.
Police investigations are ongoing.
The Defence Ministry may charge those who breached military law, even if no one faces criminal charges.