A full-time national serviceman (NSF) died after he was dunked in the pump well of Tuas View Fire Station during the celebrations for his impending operationally ready date (ORD), which is when an NSF completes his mandatory service in uniformed service.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) issued a statement about his death last night. To shed some clarity on the circumstances of his death, an unofficial tradition among firefighters when one is ORD-ing involves a hazing ritual of sorts, where the outgoing personnel willingly (or sometimes, unwillingly) take part in a series of trials put together by fellow NSF squad mates.
One of the more popular activities consists of the ORD-ing firefighter getting thrown in the fire station’s pump well — a deep reservoir of water used for training and testing out the pumps of fire engines. Firefighters have a name for this activity: “Kolam”, the Malay word for “pool”.
SCDF is firmly against such ragging rituals among its personnel, which is said to have been around for decades in a warped bid to build camaraderie and express tough love. Despite the prohibition of such deeds, they continue to be practiced around fire stations islandwide, as many past and current firefighters can attest to.
It is this undertaking that Corporal Kok Yuen Chin was believed to have taken part in, but it’s unclear if he was dunked against his will. At about 9:20pm yesterday, he was found unconscious at the bottom of the well after he failed to resurface. Initial attempts by other SCDF personnel failed to locate CPL Kok, and the water had to be drained out before they were able to retrieve him.
Subsequent attempts by a paramedic to revive him also proved to be unsuccessful, and he was conveyed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. CPL Kok was pronounced dead soon after his arrival.
Based on preliminary investigations, two SCDF regular personnel have been placed under arrest today, as the “mishap arose as a result of activities which SCDF has prohibited”.
Similar to the tragic case involving the Singapore Armed Forces’ Dave Lee, a Committee of Inquiry will be set up to examine the case, and the police are separately conducting their own investigations into what exactly happened.
“SCDF is saddened by his death and extends our deepest condolences to his family,” wrote SCDF in their statement. “We are providing all necessary assistance to the family during this difficult time.”
Ragging has been a big internal issue among SCDF for a long time. Ten years ago, public outcry ensued after an appalling video clip emerged online depicting a naked SCDF personnel tied up with rope while other men taunted him and rubbed shoe polish all over his body.
The transparency of SCDF on the tragedy has been praised by netizens, whose memory of Dave Lee’s death and the subsequent public backlash over the questionable circumstances of his death remain fresh in their minds.
SCDF issued an explanation on how they’ve been proactive in attempting to prevent ragging and the programs already in place to make reports about such conduct.
“Severe punishments and deterrent action have been meted out in the past to personnel who engaged in unauthorized activities. We continually educate our personnel, including during their foundation courses, briefings at recruit and specialist levels, as well as at periodic intervals, to make clear to our officers the risks of such activities and that they are prohibited. They are also warned by their Commanders. SCDF also has a whistle-blowing programme in place to help identify irresponsible behavior.”