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Here’s what led up to the Bionix reversing onto CFC Liu Kai’s Land Rover

Whole thing happened in under a minute.

Joshua Lee | February 11, 01:37 pm

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The Committee of Inquiry (COI) that investigated the training incident which took CFC Liu Kai’s life has submitted its preliminary findings.

NSF CFC Liu Kai’s death is 2nd fatal Bionix-related training accident in 2 years

This was reported by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Feb. 11, 2019.

The COI managed to piece together the chronology of events via video recordings from two cameras (one inside the Land Rover and one on the front of it) as well as multiple statements from witnesses.

The servicemen involved:

On Nov. 3, 2018, Liu was participating in a two-sided company mission exercise at the Jalan Murai training area. The exercise was conducted by the 42 Battalion of the Singapore Armoured Regiment (42 SAR).

Liu, a Transport Operator, was assigned to drive a trainer, a SAF Regular Captain in a Land Rover.

The trainer was assessing a Bionix vehicle during the mission exercise. The Bionix crew comprised four full-time national servicemen (NSF) personnel:

  1. Vehicle Commander (Second Lieutenant)
  2. Bionix Specialist who was the rear guide (Third Sergeant)
  3. Driver (Corporal)
  4. Gunner (Corporal)

Here is the sequence of events, as found by the COI:

At around 9.58am, the Bionix arrived at a junction and stopped because there were several exercise vehicles passing by. In response, the Land Rover, which was following the Bionix, also stopped.

The trainer instructed Liu to overtake the Bionix. Liu started to move the Land Rover forward but stopped after shots were fired by the exercise vehicles.

Based on the COI’s calculations, the Land Rover was at most 19.8m behind the Bionix. This was short of the safety distance of 30m stared in the Army’s Training Safety Regulations.

In response to the shots fired by exercise vehicles, the Bionix’s Vehicle Commander ordered the crew to execute an extrication drill.

This drill is a standard action taught to all Bionix crew to get away from enemy encounter as fast as possible. As part of this drill, the Bionix had to reverse so that it could fire at the enemy vehicles.

The Bionix started to reverse approximately four seconds after the Land Rover stopped.

At this point, the Land Rover was not directly behind the Bionix. However, as the Bionix was reversing, the driver made a slight steer to straighten its path. This brought the Bionix directly in front of the Land Rover.

When the Bionix started reversing, the rear guide was seen gesturing to the Land Rover to move away He was also seen pushing the microphone of his Combat Vehicle Crew helmet closer to his mouth.

This intercom system is the only means of communication between the Bionix driver and the rear guide.

Rear view of a Bionix including a rear guide. Image via Mindef.

The rear guide also repeatedly issued stop commands when the Bionix was reversing. However, the Bionix continued reversing.

In the Land Rover, the trainer tapped Liu and signalled for him to reverse the vehicle. Liu did engaged the reverse gear. There was no mention why the Land Rover did not reverse.

Both the trainer and Liu also shouted and gestured for the Bionix to stop. The trainer attempted to reach for the handset of the radio set to communicate with the Bionix crew.

Within eight seconds, the Bionix reversed onto the Land Rover and mounted the driver’s side.

The trainer managed to extricate himself from the Land Rover and notified the Conducting Officer of the exercise. The exercise was ceased immediately.

A medic on board a nearby Bionix tended to Liu immediately while the SAF Emergency Ambulance Service, unit Medical Officer and Singapore Civil Defence Force were activated. Liu succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead on site at around 10.35am. The post-mortem concluded that he died of traumatic asphyxia, which is a compression of the chest.

The COI found that all the servicemen involved were qualified to participate in the exercise. All had undergone the requisite training for their roles and had adequate rest in accordance with the Training Safety Regulations. The Land Rover was also serviceable.

Bionix intercom system focus of investigation

According to Ng, there is an investigation into whether the intercom system contributed to the incident:

“The COI noted that the intercom system was working earlier in the exercise. They have asked for an independent technical assessment report on whether the intercom system was working properly all the time. In parallel, Police investigations too are also focused on the communications between the Bionix crew, and whether this was affected by the equipment. This is an important point that needs to be resolved but we will have to await the outcome of Police investigations.”

Ng also cautioned that the purpose of the COI was to find out facts about the incident and not to determine culpability:

“To determine culpability, separate and independent from the COI, Police investigations are ongoing. Thereafter the Attorney-General (AG) will decide if any persons should be prosecuted. Internally, MINDEF will conduct its own investigations and may charge persons who breach military law in the Military Court, even if the AG does not file criminal charges.”

Top image of a standard Bionix vehicle via Mindef. 

 

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