Isnin, Jun 25, 2012


Long-time Sembulan residents recall what they saw

June 25, 2012: SIRAD Hj Tugimin @ Tony Sid, now a pensioner aged 66, was returning home to Sembulan Tengah with his family from the cinema when he spotted a big crowd in the distance on June 6, 1976.

It was between 4.30pm and 5pm. At first, he thought a house was on fire but there was no smoke billowing. Or was it a fighting incident?

"I stopped my car and asked the people 'What's wrong?'

They were mainly kampung people from Sembulan Baru.

They said there was a plane crash. Betulkah ini (Is this true?), I asked myself.

"So I sent my family home and parked the car in the compound before going out to the site.

I changed into my shorts and took my Canon camera with me in the hope of taking snapshots of the wreckage," he said.

Sirad, then a clerk with the Road Transport Department (housed at JKR Building), took his sister-in-law's boyfriend with him.

In those days, there was a long catwalk adjacent to the present Sutera Harbour Resort until the Sembulan roundabout. It was also in the vicinity of low-cost houses that had since been demolished to make way for the Double Sixth Tragedy Memorial.

"The sky was still bright. My friend and I walked to the bridge that stretched right to the open sea.

From where we were standing, the crash site was about 50 metres away.

"The plane was still in the water. It had crashed at the back of the low-cost houses.

The (front part) plane was in a vertical position with its nose buried two feet into the ground," Sirad said.

By then, the bodies of the victims had been removed and police had cordoned off one part of the area to prevent people from driving through the place leading to the site.

"I was told later it was partly because a lot of money was found floating near the wreckage."

On learning that there were VIPs inside the plane, he asked who they were.

"I recognised one of the government officers there but I didn't know his name. He said Tun Fuad, our CM, and other Ministers were among the victims."

Wading waist-deep through the water, Sirad went up to 10 feet from the wreckage, trying to get pictures for remembrance.

"I was confident that I had taken good shots from three different angles - front view and both sides.

There was no digital exposure at that time and I was using black and white film," he said.

After that, he left the scene "because there was nothing much I could do."

The next day (June 7, 1976), Sirad was shocked to read the news that Johari Stephens (Tun Fuad Stephens' son) was among those who were killed.

"Johari was my schoolmate at Sacred Heart Primary School.

He was a handsome and nice guy, friendly and smart-looking.

The late Datuk Darius Binion was then the Chairman of Sabah Youth Association (Sanya).

I knew him because I was a member of Sanya."

The same day (June 7), Sirad sent his film to the studio for development and printing.

"When I went back to the shop later, I was told that the pictures could not be developed.

I was very disappointed.

The man there said there was something wrong with the pictures.

"I didn't believe him. 'What! Are you sure?' He said the pictures were very blur, spoilt and so on.

He gave all sorts of excuses." Sirad suspected that the shop man could be lying and wanted to keep the photographs.

According to Sirad, the Double Sixth Tragedy Monument was originally built over water before the area was refilled.

"I used to fish in the waters around the memorial," he said.

News of the plane crash had by then also shattered the peace in the water village.

Hj Ag Samat Sijual @ Awang Jual, now 82 and Kg Sembulan Baru village chief, was sleeping at home at Kg Sembulan Baru (near KK) when he was awakened by noise outside.

The father of six said he could hear his adolescent children (who are now parents) shouting kapalterbang jatuh, kapalterbang jatuh (plane has fallen, plane has fallen).

"It was about 3pm. I got up and decided to check. Saya lari pergi tengok (I ran to take a look).

I saw a crowd there. Banyak budak kampong sana (A lot of village children were there).

The crash had occurred off some low-cost houses, about 15 metres away, beyond the house opposite mine.

"The front part of the plane was buried in the water, about five metres deep, I think.

Nampak separuh ekor saja (Saw half of the tail only).

Wing ada (The wing was there). The middle portion of the plane was submerged.

I went into the water to get a closer look.

The water was muddy and knee-deep. Saya nampak air banyak darah (there was lot of blood in the water) around the wreckage.

But I didn't see any bodies floating around," the grandfather of 36 and great grandfather of 15 recalled.

Among the people Ag Samat saw was then KK Airport Bomba Officer, Janair Adam.

"Polis pun datang. Saya lari (When the police came, I went away).

Who knows, if anything went missing from the plane, ," he trailed off.

"I did not want to know more about the incident. What if I were asked to be a witness?

Saya takut kena jadi saksi (I was afraid of being made a witness). After all, I was not an eye-witness.

I went to the site only after the crash," he said matter-of-factly.

Ag Samat was wet so he decided to go home to change his clothes.

"I immediately washed my pants but the blood stains remained and there was a typical smell, so I threw it away."

Ag Samat, who started his career as a postman, retired in 1990 as a supervisor with the General Post Office, KK.

He was appointed village chief six years later.

By: Mary Chin

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