05 January 2000

The Death of Ong Jia Hui

ST Dec 30, 2005
Coroner's strong words

STATE Coroner Tan Boon Heng had strong words for the four instructors whose negligence he said was responsible for soldier Ong Jia Hui's death. The soldier drowned during training - with the four men standing less than 10m away.

First Warrant Officer Ho Yin Choy, 43, bore the brunt of the criticism. As safety officer, he had the best view of the training area and claimed he could see all five trainees at all times.

But when the judge asked why he failed to see 2nd Sgt Ong dipping below the surface of the sea, he said: 'He just disappeared. It's so sudden.' The judge shot back: 'It just makes your story so ridiculous!'

The soldier was found lying on the seabed. His life jacket, which was later found to be defective, was never inflated.

1WO Ho and his three fellow instructors - Master Sergeants Julian Tan, 32, and Tan Kang Choon, 33; and Staff Sergeant Alex Chan, 28 - now face the possibility of criminal charges.

In arriving at his verdict, the judge said it was not beyond the control of the four instructors to prevent 2nd Sgt Ong's death.

He said: 'Sadly the lack of vigilance and the human frailty of being prone to distraction...resulted in the death of Jia Hui.'

CHONG CHEE KIN

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