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The father of a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Full-time national serviceman who died at Tuas View Fire Station during celebrations for his impending Operationally-ready Date (ORD) said that he suspected that his son had sustained injuries while falling into the pump well earlier.
Mr Kok Ming Hua, 56, told Lianhe Wanbao:
“My son did not know how to swim before he enlisted.
“A month back, I started worrying whether there would be the ritual involving the pump well during his ORD celebrations.”
According to the SCDF, CPL Kok Yuen Chin, 22, was found unconscious at the bottom of the 12m-deep pump well on Sunday (May 13).
The pump well is a reservoir of water used for training and testing of fire engine pumps.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was immediately administered on CPL Kok, and an automated external defibrillator was also used.
CPL Kok was then conveyed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead.
The incident happened three days before CPL Kok’s ORD.
CPL Kok, a permanent resident (PR) in Singapore, was from Malacca, Malaysia, reports Lianhe Wanbao.
He had an elder sister and younger brother.
Both CPL Kok’s father and sister work in Singapore.
His father revealed that his son had been 20 years old when he first enlisted and was dispatched to the Tuas View Fire Station about a year and a half ago.
Mr Kok revealed that his son had spoken to the family about the upcoming “Kolam Ritual” before his ORD, which involved him getting into the pump well.
“Kolam” broadly translates to a pond or a pool of water in English.
CPL Kok apparently confided in his family, worried about the ritual as he was not a good swimmer.
His mother Madam Huang Xiu Fang, 53, said:
“I’ve never let him (CPL Kok) learn to swim when he was young, and he didn’t know how to swim before enlisting either.”
Both Madam Huang and Mr Kok said they were unsure if CPL Kok learned how to swim during his time in the national service.
The Central Manpower Base’s website states that being able to swim is a skill required of all recruits in the basic training curriculum.
Mr Kok said that to his understanding, his son had fallen into the pump well during his ORD celebrations and did not surface later.
Other SCDF personnel then jumped into the well to search for him but could not find him.
The well was the drained and CPL Kok was found unconscious at the bottom of the well.
Said Mr Kok:
“They spent about 45 minutes to drain the well.
“When they finally found him at the bottom of the well, he was already unconscious.”
Mr Kok visited the Tuas View Fire Station on Monday (May 14) to conduct a spiritual ritual for his son.
For the first time, he laid eyes on the well which his son had fallen into and exclaimed:
“Go in already, how to come out?”
He told Lianhe Wanbao that he, along with his sister and her husband had gone to the morgue on Monday afternoon to claim CPL
Mr Kok revealed that he had found wounds on his son's forehead and cheek.
Two of his teeth had also fallen off.
The agitated father cried as he saw his son’s body, and uttered:
“Fall inside, then die already.”
He later told reporters:
“I suspect that his face hit the wall when he fell in.
“Perhaps he was unconscious from the impact and sank to the bottom of the well, which led to him drowning.”
He added that he had been shocked when he first saw the pump well.
“I thought it was only the size of a table.
“I didn't expect it to be so big and so deep.
“There were no steps at the side of the wall, so how will you get out once you have fallen in?”
Mr Kok lamented that it would still be acceptable if the tragedy had occurred in the line of duty, but the incident had arisen from human factors, and he could not accept it.
He also revealed that the SCDF gave his family RM5,000 for his son’s funeral and another S$9,000 of funeral money.
CPL Kok’s body will be cremated on Thursday morning (May 17).
The police have issued an official statement on the incident.
Read the statement:
“The Police are aware of media reports stating that there were visible injuries discovered on the late CPL Kok Yuen Chin.
“Preliminary investigation findings from police as well as findings from the pathologist indicate that the injuries were sustained in the well and during the rescue process.
“The police would like to remind the public that investigations are ongoing and public should not speculate. The findings will be made known in due course.”