By Shaffiq Alkhatib | Posted: 30 November 2010 1808 2010 1808 hrs
SINGAPORE: State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid has recorded a verdict of misadventure in the death of a full-time national serviceman on a Republic of Singapore Navy ship last year.
Lance Corporal (LCP) Mar Teng Fong asphyxiated and suffered chest injuries after he was trapped between a sliding door and a door frame in an engine room onboard the landing ship tank (LST) RSS Persistence on November 18.
The incident happened in the waters off Changi Naval Base.
The LST is the same one that was sent to the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy patrols and to Meulaboh in Indonesia to aid relief efforts when the deadly 2004 tsunami hit the region.
The 20-year-old had earlier reported for engineering watch duty at the ship's Machinery Control Room at 11.25pm on November 17, 2009.
He was assigned to check the steering gear compartment and the machinery at the engine room that evening, a routine that usually takes about 15 minutes to complete.
First Sergeant Yeo Wen Han was asked to look for LCP Mar when he was taking a longer time than usual to complete his round.
He found the engineering naval specialist unconscious in the engine room.
In a desperate attempt, LCP Mar was evacuated to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) via helicopter and arrived at 1.15am.
He was declared dead at SGH three days later, two weeks before he completed his national service.
The court heard that the hydraulic watertight sliding doors can be opened and closed by levers located on both sides of the wall.
The door can also be operated by buttons located at a separate control panel in the ship.
The accident remains a mystery as a check conducted found that the seals covering the buttons were intact, indicating that nobody had pressed them by accident.
State Coroner Imran also found that the door was in working condition and was operating like how it was supposed to.
Speaking to reporters after the inquiry, LCP Mar's family members said that they were saddened by the incident.
They said that he died about two weeks before his Operationally Ready Date and had intended to sign on with the military after doing so.
MINDEF toughens security
Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has beefed up security following LCP Mar's death.
MINDEF said the Navy has since installed a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera at each of the ship's hydraulic doors.
Personnel conducting checks will also have to inform the supervisor before entering or exiting the hydraulic doors.
The ministry said this is to enhance the monitoring of personnel movement.