Army guilty of several lapses in corporal's death: military

2013/07/15 23:49:09

Taipei, July 15 (CNA) An army corporal who died on July 4, just two days before he was to be discharged, was a "high risk" serviceman, and the drills he was asked to perform and their intensity did not conform to the rules, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Monday.

The failure to observe drill rules was one of several lapses identified in the MND's administrative report on the death of Hung Chung-chiu, a 24-year-old graduate of National Cheng Kung University serving in the army's 542nd Armor Brigade in Hsinchu.

Hung died while being held by the 269th Brigade in Taoyuan, after he was sent there on June 28 for violating regulations on bringing a camera phone onto his base.

The corporal was to be discharged on July 6 after completing his year of compulsory military service.

Maj. Gen. Hsia Fu-hua, an MND supervisory director, said that during a morning drill on July 3, Hung complained to the guard watching him that "the heavy drilling was beyond his physical strength," but he was told to continue.

The guard failed to consider Hung's physical condition even though Hung weighed 98.3 kilos despite only measuring 1.72 meters and had a BMI of 33.

The corporal failed the physical and psychological assessment required before throwing somebody into the brig, but that was ignored, the report said, and Hung's guard should have considered less taxing forms of training considering Hung's physical condition.

Later that day, another rigorous physical test was scheduled at 3:40 p.m., but the drill was delayed until 4:15 p.m. because of high temperature and humidity.

Even at 4:15 p.m., however, the conditions outdoors remained at a "red flag" level, and putting Hung through a demanding training session outdoors in the heat and humidity was against regulations, the report said.

The military also found that the process used by the 542 Armor Brigade to send Hung for disciplinary action, including the legal basis supporting the decision, was seriously flawed.

Only one meeting rather than two were held to determine whether Hung should be disciplined and the final decision was approved by the base commander despite an incomplete procedure.

In addition, the regulation on using camera phones on bases had been amended on May 22 to reduce the penalty for having a camera phone to administrative discipline, the report said. In other words, Hung should not have been thrown into the brig in any case.

The incident also cast light on the poor state of the 13 brigs under Army Command Headquarters, Hsia said, pointing to the headquarters' lack of control over the dispatch of management personnel and its inability to improve training and brig conditions.

The army has also not visited the brigs often enough to supervise those in charge, according to Hsia.

Meanwhile, National Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said that while coroners ruled Hung died of heat exhaustion, "this does not mean we don't have any administrative or legal responsibility."

Kao again apologized for Hung's death. "I myself will take political responsibility," he said.

He tendered his resignation but both President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah have asked him to stay on, according to a Presidential Office spokeswoman late Monday.

The minister's apology came as the army published a second list of 10 Army officials to be disciplined for their role in the incident, including Col. Huang Tien-jen, deputy head of the 269th Brigade.

The MND announced on July 11 that it would punish 27 Army officers, including Commander General Lee Shying-jow and the commander of the 542nd Brigade, over Hung's death.

President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that he has asked the ministry to get to the bottom of Hung's death.

The victim's father, meanwhile, said that during the one-hour drill on July 3 that killed his son, Hung was not given a drop of water in the sweltering heat.

The elder Hung also questioned why there is no video covering the 42 minutes between the time of his son's collapse and the arrival of the ambulance that took him to a hospital.

(By Rogge Chen and Lilian Wu)
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