Ng Eng Hen: No malfunction with howitzer gun-lowering mechanism
An inspection of the gun-lowering mechanism of the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) that crushed Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang did not reveal any problems with the system, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.
CFC Pang suffered serious injuries while on reservist duty in New Zealand participating in Exercise Thunder Warrior, when he was caught between the gun barrel and the interior of the cabin of the SSPH that he was repairing.
He later died.
Mr Ng told Parliament that the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) immediate task after the incident was to ensure that there were no systemic malfunctions with the SSPH that would put other crews at risk, and they found none.
In his ministerial statement yesterday, he also touched on the experience of the crew, the adequacy of safety protocols, and the SSPH's 15-year injury-free track record.
CFC Pang, an armament technician, was repairing the SSPH's calibration system and had called for the help of regular technicians as he was unable to rectify the fault.
In the cabin with him was a regular armament technician holding the rank of Military Expert (ME) 2, and a gun detachment commander, a third sergeant NSman.
Both have since been re-deployed.
Mr Ng noted that all three had specific SSPH training and had experience repairing it.
The gun commander is the one who lowers the gun during maintenance.
Before he does so, he is supposed to check that the barrel area is free from obstacles and personnel, and shout "standby".
There is space in the cabin for three people to occupy "safe positions" on either side of the gun, Mr Ng told Parliament.
He said the investigation is being handled by the SAF's Special Investigation Branch (SIB) and added that both the police and the State Coroner have no jurisdiction over the case, which happened overseas.
The chief military prosecutor will use the SIB's findings to decide if any serviceman will be prosecuted in military court for criminal or military offences.
A five-member Committee of Inquiry (COI) with members from outside the SAF and the Defence Ministry has also been convened.
Mr Ng said: "I ask that all of us respect these objective and impartial processes that are underway, to reserve our judgment and wait for the conclusions of the COI.
"We owe it to CFC (NS) Pang and his family, indeed to all Singaporeans, to get to the bottom of what happened, and make things right, to ensure the safety of the NS training system as a whole." - KOK YUFENG