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1 jeep, 2 unbelted passengers, 1 unlicensed driver

Third Sgt Tan Mou Sheng killed after he was thrown out of jeep driven by unlicensed driver. -TNP
Rennie Whang and Foo Jie Ying

Sat, Nov 17, 2012
The New Paper

Third Sergeant Tan Mou Sheng (inset) was killed after he was thrown out of a jeep whose driver did not have a driving licence. Tan and another rear passenger were not wearing helmets or lap belts.

SINGAPORE - The day that he died, there was supposed to be a class gathering.

A few nights before, Third Sergeant Tan Mou Sheng, 20, even messaged one of his best friends, student Tey Yi Shun, 20, about attending.

But at 8am on May 11, Mr Tey received another message from 3rd Sgt Tan's girlfriend.

There had been an accident in camp and 3rd Sgt Tan was rushed to the medical centre.

One of 3rd Sgt Tan's buddies in camp had alerted her. 3rd Sgt Tan was later transferred to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Mr Tey said that as he rushed to the hospital in a taxi, another friend called: 3rd Sgt Tan had died.

He said: "It happened all of a sudden. In just five hours, he was gone."

According to a Health Sciences Authority forensic pathologist, 3rd Sgt Tan died of a "haemorrhage from severe pelvic crush injuries".

The Committees of Inquiry found that 3rd Sgt Tan had died following an accident while he was on a Reconnaissance Commanders' Course held at the Marsiling training area.

Pinned under

The course was conducted by the Combat Intelligence School and 3rd Sgt Tan, one of the instructors in the course, was travelling with other instructors in ascout jeep. He was seated at the rear of the jeep.

At 6.50am, the jeep, driven by an unlicensed driver, overturned. 3rd Sgt Tan was thrown out and pinned under the jeep.

He was later rescued, attended to by a medic and evacuated in a safety vehicle to the Nee Soon Camp Medical Centre.

The duty medical officer then accompanied 3rd Sgt Tan in an SAF ambulance to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Despite undergoing emergency surgery, 3rd Sgt Tan eventually succumbed to his injuries at 1.56pm. Mr Tey said that when he arrived at the hospital, he met his friend's family and girlfriend and her family.

"They were all devastated," he said.

As other classmates started arriving, the whole class sat down together in a cafe, Mr Tey recalled.

3rd Sgt Tan had been captain of the Hwa Chong Institution's softball team, which showed up at the hospital in its entirety, along with its coach, said student and teammate Mr Tang Heng Yang, 20.

Mr Tang said of the roughly 20 to 30 friends present at the time: "If not for the team supporting each other, we might not have been able to come to terms with it individually."

Mr Tang said 3rd Sgt Tan was obsessed with softball and football. Playing in the centre field position, 3rd Sgt Tan inspired the team through his performance and dedication.

NSF and schoolmate of six years, Mr Kenneth Chan, 20, said 3rd Sgt Tan trained for hours daily.

"He was very jovial, his approach to life carefree. Softball was clearly his passion," he said.

Most memorable match

Mr Tang said they considered a JC2 match against Raffles Institution their most memorable - it was a crucial match at the National Inter-school Competition which the team won en route to coming in tops overall.

Mr Tang had improved much by then, thanks to 3rd Sgt Tan's guidance, he said.

For six months, 3rd Sgt Tan often spent up to three hours after school practising with Mr Tang, a pitcher, on top of their four-hour team practices.

"I'm definitely grateful for the time he spent on me. Training at softball was one of the ways we enjoyed our time together," said Mr Tang.

Mr Tey said 3rd Sgt Tan, who was scheduled to enrol in the Singapore Management University business school next year, was always full of energy.

"You'd never see him quiet or sitting down alone. He was always talking to friends.

"If he noticed I was sad, he would ask what was wrong. He really cared about his friends."

Mr Tey added the accident has made those who knew 3rd Sgt Tan grow up a lot.

He has visited 3rd Sgt Tan at the cemetery two or three times, with the last trip made about six weeks ago.

"When we visit him or talk about him, we think about appreciating life more, and those we love."

3rd Sgt Tan's family declined to comment.

What went wrong, what has been done

- The jeep driver had no licence to drive and the conducting officer did not check if the driver had a licence.

The driver also failed to highlight to his superior that he was not licensed to drive a jeep. During the course of investigations, the Committees of Inquiry (COI) uncovered previous instances of unlicensed driving.

The vehicle management system was also not satisfactory, with lax access to vehicles by servicemen in the field during training.

- Weak safety culture in the Combat Intelligence School (CIS), the school which conducted this training package.

- Third Sergeant Tan Mou Sheng and the other rear passenger were not wearing helmets or lap belts. The vehicle commander did not ensure that the jeep passengers wore their helmets or lap belts either.

Recommendations in place

1. Re-deployment

Shortly after the incident, the Defence Ministry relieved Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Lam Fei Liong, the commanding officer (CO) at CIS, of his duties and appointed a new CO.

Other personnel in the CIS were also relieved of their duties:

- Major Poon Chen Song, Head of the Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition Wing;

- 1st Warrant Officer Lim Ser Wei, School Sergeant Major;

- Lieutenant Marcus Koh Men, exercise Supervising Officer; and

- Master Sergeant Lee Kong Kean, exercise Conducting Officer.

They have been re-deployed to assignments where they will not be supervising soldiers for training or operations.

3. Prosecution

The Chief Military Prosecutor will determine if these personnel should be subject to a General Court Martial.

Police investigations are also on-going to determine whether to prosecute the personnel involved in Civil Court.

This includes the unlicensed driver of the jeep, 3rd Sgt Cavin Tan.

4. Tighter rules

The vehicular management system in the CIS has been tightened.

SAF has also reviewed other units to ensure that unauthorised driving does not occur during field training.

It is now mandatory for drivers to visibly display their driving licence on the vehicle dashboard.

All SAF units have now tightened control over the use and movement of vehicles so that the keys of any vehicle are not inadvertently handed to unlicensed drivers.

wrennie@sph.com.sg


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