Fatal accident: Bionix will stop, reverse when opposing side is spotted, a vehicle commander who was at the exercise tells court

SINGAPORE- During a military exercise, a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle will stop moving and immediately reverse when its vehicle commander spots a vehicle from the opposing side, a district court heard on Friday (March 19).

Mr Gibson Tay, who was present at the exercise during which full-time national serviceman (NSF), Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu Kai, 22, was killed on Nov 3, 2018, told the court that this was done to get out of the opposing side’s sight.

Mr Tay was an NSF and the vehicle commander of a Bionix when another Bionix reversed and mounted a Land Rover that CFC Liu was driving at the time.

CFC Liu had been ordered by the vehicle commander of the Land Rover, Ong Lin Jie, now 30, to overtake the Bionix shortly before the tragedy occurred.

The younger soldier was pronounced dead at the scene at 10.35am that day.

Ong is now accused of acting rashly by failing to keep a safe distance of 30m between the Land Rover and the Bionix, ordering CFC Liu to overtake it though it was unsafe to do so, and without first establishing communication with the other vehicle.

He has since been suspended from service.

The prosecution’s case is that it should have been obvious to Ong that there was a real risk that the Bionix had encountered the opposing side in the exercise and would need to reverse, as part of the drill.

Ong is represented by lawyer Teo Choo Kee, who argued that there was no regulation that states his client had to establish communication with the Bionix when overtaking it.

The tragedy occurred during a company exercise by the 42nd Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment in November 2018.

Ong was there as a trainer and was responsible for the safety of CFC Liu, the only other person in the Land Rover with him.

Shortly before 10am, Ong and CFC Liu stopped about 30m behind a Bionix at a junction. Ong then ordered CFC Liu to overtake it on its left.

CFC Liu heard rounds being fired and stopped 16m to 18m behind the Bionix, which reversed and mounted the driver’s side of the Land Rover, pinning him in his seat. He died of traumatic asphyxia.

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On the second day of Ong’s trial on Friday, Mr Tay testified that while working as a Bionix vehicle commander, he had never been overtaken nor seen another vehicle overtaking him without prior communication through a radio set.

Mr Tay told District Judge Jasvender Kaur that if the radio set was not working properly, he would stop the vehicle and try to rectify the situation.

He stressed that it would be unsafe to proceed if he could not communicate with the other soldiers.

The trial continues.

If convicted of committing the rash act, Ong can be jailed for up to five years and fined.

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