SCDF NSF fined for disseminating photos of fatal Bionix accident scene

SINGAPORE: Dispatched to the site of a training accident to help extricate a trapped man, a full-time national serviceman (NSF) with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) took photos of the scene.

The man who was trapped, NSF Liu Kai, died after a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle collided into the Land Rover he was driving during a training exercise at Murai Urban Training Facility on Nov 3, 2018.

Mohamad Haikal Mohd Zainal Abiddin, 21, was fined S$3,000 on Monday (Jan 20) for two charges under the Official Secrets Act of disseminating five photos of the accident. A third charge was taken into consideration for sentencing.

READ: Death of NSF Liu Kai: Bionix driver continued reversing despite stop commands, police investigating comms between crew

Haikal, who pleaded guilty to the charges, was a section commander at Jurong Fire Station at the time.

On the morning of Nov 3, 2018, Haikal and two other co-accused men were deployed to the accident site to help extricate Corporal First Class Liu, who was unconscious after a Bionix vehicle reversed into his Land Rover and partially mounted it.

When the SCDF NSFs arrived at the scene, they saw the Land Rover crushed below the Bionix, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Zhou Yihong and Angela Ang.

However, before joining in the extrication, Haikal took five photos of the scene on his mobile phone. Three of the photos captured the two vehicles, while two photos showed the vehicles’ licence plates.

None of the photos showed the deceased.

After returning to the fire station, Haikal sent the photos he took to a WhatsApp chat group made up of 24 current and former SCDF officers.

He also sent the photos to his friend, who was a Singapore Armed Forces NSF attached to Keat Hong Camp.

READ: SAF officer charged over death of NSF Liu Kai, 5 others charged with leaking photos

Haikal knew the photographs were of a sensitive nature, and that he was not authorised to send them to others, said the prosecution.

His co-accused, Muhammad Arif Azman, was also at the scene and also took photos, which he sent to others as well.

Three other SCDF NSFs, Brandon Tan Jien Jet, Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar and Thng Yu Xuan, forwarded the photos to their friends and family when they received it in the WhatsApp group chat.

Later that day, Jurong Fire Station commander Captain Dinesh K Verlachamy found out that a photograph of the accident site had been circulating on WhatsApp, and issued an order for all those in the relevant rota to gather for investigations.

READ: NSF Liu Kai, who died in Bionix accident, given military send-off

READ: Enhancements to Bionix safety among measures put in place following COI findings into NSF Liu Kai’s death

Haikal and Arif were identified as the ones who had taken the photos and sent them out initially.

Arif was fined S$3,000 in December for his involvement, while Tan and Zaki were each fined S$1,500.

The cases for Thng and Captain Ong Lin Jie, who was the vehicle commander of the Land Rover, are pending. Ong intends to claim trial.

For sending photos of the incident to other people in contravention of the Official Secrets Act, Haikal could have been jailed for up to two years, fined a maximum of S$2,000, or both.

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