Back in 2012, young Dominique Sarron Lee collapsed with breathing difficulties during a training exercise conducted by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
The 21-year-old national serviceman was taken to the Sungei Gedong Medical Centre before being conveyed to the National University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause? An allergic reaction to smoke grenades that had been used during the military exercise at Lim Chu Kang’s Murai Urban Training Facility. A year after Lee’s tragic death, the State Coroner ruled that the young man died from an acute allergic reaction from inhaling zinc chloride fumes, which came from the smoke grenades.
Enraged, Lee’s family sued for negligence on the part of the SAF, his platoon commander Captain Najib Hanuk Muhammad Jalal and the chief of safety officer of the training exercise, Captain Chia Thye Siong. Six smoke grenades had been used instead of the regulation-specified two.
The lengthy court battle however ended in favour of the SAF yesterday, according to various media reports. The High Court threw out the suit after Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh agreed that the incident — though fatal — fell within the provision of Section 14 of the Government Proceedings Act. The act protected the SAF from suits for negligence the deaths or injuries occured during service.
It was heartbreaking for the Lee family, to say the least. Already having lost a son, the family will now have to pay the SAF for their legal costs.
In a post on the Facebook page dedicated to the memory of Dominique, Lee’s mother wrote a gut-wrenching missive to her son — a defeated plea of sorts in a depressing end to the saga.
“Dom, in these past 3+ years, I have been worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very government I taught you to trust; worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very system I counselled you to have faith in; worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very people I advised you to respect and honor.”
“Dom, forgive me. I taught you wrong.”