S'porean driver hurt in M'sian jungle as off-road vehicle flips downhill
It would have been a 31-metre plunge to death for the trio in the Suzuki Jimny, if it hadn't been for a rubber tree.
While trying to scale a steep slope in the jungle near Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan on Monday night, their off-road vehicle first listed to the left before flipping over several times.
"Thank God for the huge rubber tree that stopped us from flipping further.
"If it hadn't, it would have been a 100-foot drop," Mr Daniel Liew, who was in the car, told The New Paper over the phone yesterday.
The 38-year-old Malaysian suffered a cut on his hand, while the Singaporean driver and owner of the vehicle, Mr Alvin Tan, 33, suffered broken ribs and torn muscles in his side.
Only Filipino TV producer Patricia Nabong, 27, escaped unscathed.
"She is very petite and I threw my arms around her and wrapped her like a marshmallow," Mr Liew said.
Mr Tan, a property agent, could not be reached for comment. It is understood he was still being treated at Kuala Pilah Hospital on Monday night.
The trio had met earlier that day.
Mr Tan was taking part in the Touring Adventurers category of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) 2014.
Launched in 1997, RFC is one of the world's most demanding 4x4 extreme off-road events in Malaysia.
Seventy participants from 25 countries are taking part in the 10-day competition, held in Negeri Sembilan. It began on Saturday.
A check with RFC founder Luis J.A. Wee revealed that Mr Tan was not part of the main competition.
Mr Liew, an RFC official, said: "(Ms Nabong and I) were making our way to the base camp on foot when we came across a convoy of off-roaders from Singapore.
"They were members of the Land Rover Owners Singapore."
Mr Liew and Ms Nabong decided to hitch a ride with Mr Tan in his off-roader
Halfway on their journey to the base camp, Mr Liew said the shaft on one of the Land Rovers in the convoy snapped.
"I helped the crew winch the breakdown vehicle to another Land Rover and we continued," he added.
During the drive up a steep slope to reach the base camp, the two Land Rovers got stuck.
"Seeing that his Jimny is lighter, Mr Tan decided to take the exit path to get to the base camp to get help.
"While trying to climb that path, I felt the vehicle list to the left," he said.
From experience, he knew what would happen next.
"That was when I quickly pulled Patricia towards me and enveloped her with my body. She was small enough," Mr Liew said.
The car flipped and landed on its left side about a metre down the slope before continuing to roll.
"I kept my eyes wide open all the while. I wanted to know where we are. That was how I knew the vehicle was on its head and we were upside down when we came to a stop," he added.
Mr Liew said if it hadn't been for the rubber tree, all three would have died.
"The door on my side was blocked by a wall of vegetation. I could not get it open.
"The only escape was through the driver's door. Alvin tried to kick it open but he was injured," he said.
Mr Tan managed to contact members in the convoy with his mobile phone.
They arrived about 15 minutes later.
Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian (BH) reported on its website that the accident happened at 9.28pm on Monday.
A spokesman for the Malaysian fire brigade told BH that the three people in the car were rescued an hour later and sent to a hospital.
"I kept my eyes wide open all the while... We were upside down when we came to a stop."
- Malaysian passenger Mr Daniel Liew
Seasoned off-road driver and former SUV Expedition Club (Suvec) president Muhammad Alkhatib gives some pointers :
1. Know your vehicle. Know its dimensions and characteristics, and make sure it is in good condition. Recognise its limits and not exceed them. Make sure your tyres are the right ones, including the spare, and that they are in good condition. There is nothing worse than going off-road with the wrong tyres.
2. Know your limits as a driver.
3. Know the terrain of the route you will be travelling on and understand what type of obstacles you might encounter.
4. Stick closely to safety rules and designated routes. Always belt up as it could save your life.