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A 38-year-old Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer will be charged on Monday (Oct 16) in relation to the death of 19-year-old full-time national serviceman Edward H Go during a fire on Dec 8 last year.
The officer, who was Sergeant 1 Go’s superior, had allegedly left him alone in the flat at Block 91 Henderson Road to fight the ongoing fire against SCDF’s firefighting doctrine without informing anyone of this fact, said the police in a statement released on Saturday (Oct 14).
The autopsy certified the cause of death to be “suffocation due to depleted air cylinder”. Police investigations did not find any evidence to suggest that the young man’s death was due to equipment failure.
The SCDF officer will be charged with causing grievous hurt by a rash act that endangers life or the personal safety of others. If convicted, the offence is punishable with imprisonment of up to four years, or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
In relation to the police statement, SCDF posted its own statement on Facebook: "The police have separately referred one other officer to the SCDF, in the context of Sgt1 Edward’s death, for departmental action.
"This officer had allegedly failed to adequately ensure the overall safety of the firefighting operation when he subsequently arrived and took over command and control of the incident.
"If our investigation finds that this officer had contravened SCDF’s doctrine on firefighting or standard operating procedures during the incident, we will take disciplinary action against him. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the officer has been redeployed to a non-supervisory and non-operational post.
"Following the incident on Dec 8, we had convened an Internal Review Group to conduct a detailed after-action review (AAR). The AAR covered many aspects such as SCDF’s firefighting procedures and operational safety, as well as equipping and training.
"Overall, the review found that SCDF’s firefighting doctrine is systematically taught to our firefighters and its principles are well established on the ground. It recommended nevertheless, among others, that SCDF take steps to comprehensively review the selection and training of our ground commanders. This includes enhancing the emphasis on command responsibility and conducting exercises to test their command and control capabilities. We have done so.
"As part of the AAR, we also audited over 260 firefighting operations from January 2021 to December 2022 where at least one firefighting waterjet was deployed, to assess whether they were conducted professionally, with appropriate command and control, and with adequate safety for our officers.
"We also delved deeper into 61 of these operations that required more than two firefighting waterjets, which would be considered a more challenging incident. The reports for these cases were carefully reviewed to understand the firefighting strategies employed, and nearly 150 officers covering a cross-section of Section Commanders and firefighters involved in the operations were interviewed about their experiences and observations.
"The audit found that the operations had been conducted competently and safely, although there were occasional individual lapses, not uncommon in a dynamic situation like a firefighting operation.
"To reduce such incidences of individual lapses, we have introduced additional measures to enhance safety on the ground at fire incidents.
"For larger and more complex fires, our firefighting doctrine already requires the establishment of a staging and breathing apparatus control officer (BACO) control point, to assist in monitoring the deployment of firefighters, as well as to check on their personal protective equipment (PPE) before they enter the scene of the fire.
"Since Sept 18, we have introduced the same control point for smaller fires like residential unit fires, to strengthen command and control and safety."
SCDF added: "We will continue to provide the fullest support and assistance to SGT1 Edward’s family."