Allergic reaction to smoke grenade killed soldier

Allergic reaction to smoke grenade killed soldier
Pte Lee’s mother Felicia Seah and his brother Daryl Shane (above) leaving the court yesterday. The family says that when Pte Lee (inset) was screened, the doctor should have asked for his medical records.

SINGAPORE - Private Dominique Sarron Lee did not die from a severe asthma attack but from an acute allergic reaction to a key compound used in smoke grenades, a coroner's inquiry into his death found on Friday.

This concurs with the findings by a Committee of Inquiry (COI), which was convened last year when the 21-year-old died after suffering breathing difficulties during a training exercise.

Pte Lee passed out during the exercise in Lim Chu Kang in April last year, which involved the use of six smoke grenades. He later died in hospital.

"The cause of the demise is not due to severe asthmatic attack," said state coroner Imran Abdul Hamid on Friday, dismissing claims by Pte Lee's family that the full-time serviceman (NSF) died from asthma. He died because of an allergic reaction to zinc chloride fumes, Mr Imran added.

Delivering his findings on Friday, the state coroner also said that Pte Lee had "underplayed and underdeclared" his asthma history during a pre-enlistment medical check-up.

Pte Lee, a former track athlete from the Singapore Sports School, had been declared fit enough to undergo combat training. But at the previous hearing last month, the court was told that Pte Lee gave inaccurate information about his asthma attacks during the check-up at the Central Manpower Base.

On Jan 4, 2011, the serviceman said "yes" in the check box under asthma/lung disease and declared that his last asthma attack was more than three years ago. But a medical report from a general practitioner at a Tampines clinic who treated him showed that he last suffered an attack on Oct 25, 2010.

Said Mr Imran: "There is a real obligation...to ensure the accuracy of the medical information provided so that if need be, further clinical investigations can be made." He added that it was "difficult to accept" that doctors at the pre-enlistment screening ought to thoroughly investigate every enlistee.

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