Ex-sergeant admits telling untrained NSF to drive jeep

A former master sergeant admitted yesterday to ordering a full-time national serviceman (NSF) to drive a jeep, even though he did not have a valid licence.

While driving in the Marsiling training area, the NSF lost control of the jeep, causing the death of another NSF who was his passenger on May 11, 2012.

Two other soldiers who were also passengers were injured. The four men were taking part in a training exercise.

Lee Kong Kean, 33, who was conducting the exercise, later asked the instructors to lie to investigators that NSF Cavin Tan, now 22, had stolen the jeep he was driving.

Lee pleaded guilty to two charges of a rash act endangering human life, and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He is expected to be sentenced on April 22.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun said that Lee has a Class 3 military driving licence and he was fully aware of the requirements needed to obtain the licence.

The duration of the Class 3 military driving course is 29 days, and military jeep familiarisation is part of it.

But he went ahead to assign Mr Tan as a jeep driver, even though he knew that the NSF did not have a valid licence and had not been trained to drive a jeep.

"This was an act that could endanger the lives of everyone who was on the jeep driven by Cavin," said DPP Tang.

Mr Tan lost control of his jeep on a downward slope. The jeep tilted, rotated around and overturned several times before landing on its side.

Two of the NSFs on the jeep - Dickson Hong and Ow Yong Wei Long - had not been wearing seat belts or helmets. They were thrown out and injured.

NSF Tan Mou Sheng, who was also not wearing a seat belt and helmet, was pinned under the jeep. He died from severe pelvic injuries.

Later that day, Lee told the instructors his intention to lie that Mr Tan had stolen the jeep.

"This was a claim which Lee knew to be completely untrue, but he nevertheless attempted to make this claim in the hope that he would gain the support of the instructors," said DPP Tang.

"However, none of the instructors agreed with (his) suggestion."

Last December, Mr Tan was sentenced to a 10-day short detention order - a community-based sentence which is less disruptive and stigmatising than a jail sentence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping had said during sentencing: "Perhaps one positive outcome of this case is that national servicemen now know that they do not need to obey a manifestly illegal or unlawful order."

For the rash act, Lee faces a jail term of up to six months and a maximum fine of $2,500. For attempting to pervert the course of justice, he faces 31/2 years in jail and a fine.

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