Singapore

Heroes of Mount Kinabalu tragedy

HEROES: THE TEACHERS

The children came first. Their lives second.

The selflessness of the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) teachers drew praise.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "The parents said that their boys told them their teachers shielded them from boulders.

"I am so moved by their strength and selflessness."

One parent, Mr Sadri Farick, 37, owner of a home decor company, called the teachers heroes.

"They shielded the kids with their own bodies. I respect them for an act that I myself may not be able to do," said the father of pupil Emyr Uzayr.

Emyr, who was injured, returned to Singapore early yesterday morning.

The mother of teacher Mohamed Faizal Abdul Salam, 28, said she is proud of what her son did, when told that the teachers had shielded the children.

The 65-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said:"That's definitely my son. He's always like that, so protective of the children."

Another teacher shoved Amal Ashley Lim, 12, and her schoolmate under a shallow overhang as rocks rained down on her group.

That unnamed teacher helped more children but did not survive.

After the quake, the teachers made sure the children were calm.

Mr Cornelius Sanan (below) said: "The teachers were holding on to some students to make sure that they're okay. Quite a few of them were injured and were bleeding."

The 34-year-old Sabahan guide added that the teachers kept calming the students down, telling them that everything would be all right.

HEROES: THE CHILDREN

Even after the trauma of experiencing an earthquake and getting injured, TKPS pupils put up a brave front for their friends, said mountain guides involved in the search-and-escue efforts.

"I could see that they were injured but they were all holding back their tears so their friends wouldn't see them cry and get upset," said a guide who declined to be named.

He was at the base of Mount Kinabalu during the quake and made the two-hour trip to Laban Rata where the TKPS group was. There, he saw dozens of children waiting for help, some of whom were injured.

"The look on the children's faces, it was like they saw the worst thing in their lives," he said.

"I can't even describe it. I could see they were in pain but they were very brave. They tried very hard not to cry so their friends won't get upset."

HEROES: THE GUIDES

The aftershocks could dislodge more boulders and that could spell death for the guides but it did not deter them.

Mr Sanan, one of seven guides hired by the school, said that by about 8am, those who could walk had been evacuated from Laban Rata.

At about 12.30pm, he and five others braved aftershocks and hiked towards the summit with blankets and stretchers to help in the search-and-rescue efforts.

Near the start of Via Ferrata, he found Prajesh Dhimant Patel, 12, who had suffered head injuries. Prajesh was still attached to mountaineering ropes and a safety harness.

"We cut him out (of the harness) and made him comfortable before carrying him down on a stretcher," he said.

"The ropes are supposed to secure you to the mountain but when parts of the mountain break off, there's nothing you can do."

When told that the boy was being treated in the intensive care unit of Gleneagles Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, Mr Sanan heaved a sigh of relief.

After helping carry Prajesh to other rescuers, he had taken a short break before hiking up a second time at 4.30pm with other guides to help with the body of fellow guide Robbi Sapinggi.

Mr Sapinggi died while pushing other climbers to safety.

Rescue efforts stopped at nightfall.

On Saturday morning, Mr Sanan scaled the mountain again with several other guides and helped retrieve the bodies at the Via Ferrata Trail.

The bodies he helped recover include those of TKPS pupil Emilie Giovanna Ramu, teacher Loo Jian Liang Terrence Sebastian and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran.

Guides wrapped the bodies in shrouds before government rescuers brought body bags and readied them to be airlifted by search-and-rescue helicopters.

But bad weather prevented the helicopters from landing until later in the afternoon.

A Singaporean parent, who posted on an education-related Facebook page, identified the boy being carried on the back of a rescuer as her son from TKPS. "Thts (sic) my son from TKP..... can nvr thk the Sabahan rangers enough for his rescue efforts," wrote the parent.

For Mr Sanan, the images of that day will be hard to erase.

He said: "I felt very sad to see the victims like that. Some of the students were joking with me just the day before but now they're gone.

"The mountain will never be the same again."


As we grieve over the loss of these young lives, we also take heart that they were striving to stretch their limits and take on new challenges.

— Statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, expressing PM Lee Hsien Loong’s deepest condolences on behalf of all Singaporeans to the families

He died to save tourists: Father

Local mountain guide Robbi Sapinggi, (below) 31, died trying to save tourists, his father said.

Speaking to The New Paper before his son's funeral yesterday, Mr Sapinggi Ladsou, 56, said his son had been leading a group of tourists up Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck.

The bodies of Mr Sapinggi, who has been a guide for 10 years, and Tanjong Katong Primary School student Peony Wee were the first to be brought down from Mount Kinabalu on Friday evening.

Mr Ladsou was told of his son's final moments by another son, Binker, who was also at the mountain when the quake happened.

He said: "When he saw the rocks falling down, he pushed the guests to safety, but got injured.

"After that, he couldn't walk, but he told the guests to leave him there and to go down the mountain to safety."

At the foot of the mountain, Mr Binker Sapinggi, who is also a guide, had asked the climber where Robbi was.

Unable to speak, the climber wrote "Go help Robbi" on a piece of paper.

Mr Robbi Sapinggi, the third son in a family of 10 children, came from a family of mountain guides.

His brothers Binker and Henry lead climbers up Mount Kinabalu regularly while his father, Mr Ladsou, leads one group a week.

The family is well known in the tourism community and scores of mourners, including local politicians, visited the family's house in Kampong Kiau.

The house is at the end of a quiet hamlet, about one and a half hour's drive out of Kota Kinabalu and accessible only by a steep rocky road.

At about 2.20pm, after a short service, about 10 mourners helped carry Mr Sapinggi's coffin from his house to a waiting hearse, an effort that took them nearly 20 minutes as they navigated the steep rocky path.

Tied onto a bamboo pole, the coffin could not fit into the hearse and was carried about 1km to the nearby cemetery, a final service for the man who gave his life to save others.

CARRIED: The coffin of Mr Robbi Sapinggi carried on a bamboo pole for about 1km to a nearby cemetery.

DAY OF NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE

Today has been declared a Day of National Remembrance, out of respect to the Singaporeans who lost their lives in the Sabah earthquake.

State flags will be flown at half-mast on all Government buildings, and one minute of silence will be observed at the beginning of the day at all SEA Games venues.

"The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the deaths of eight Singaporeans in the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The statement said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expresses his deepest condolences on behalf of all Singaporeans to their families and loved ones.

"As we grieve over the loss of these young lives, we also take heart that they were striving to stretch their limits and take on new challenges," the statement read.

The Prime Minister also thanked those helping with the rescue effort, including the Malaysian authorities, hospital staff, volunteers and search and rescue teams.

"We hope that this collective expression of sympathy and support from all Singaporeans will give solace and comfort to the families and loved ones of the victims," the statement added.


WHAT:

Sabah earthquake

WHEN:

Friday, 7.15am

WHERE:

Mount Kinabalu

WHAT HAPPENED:

29 students and eight teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) were on a leadership camp when the 6.0-magnitude quake struck the 4,095m-high mountain. Rocks and boulders rained down on them as they traversed the mountain at Via Ferrata, a route along the rock face. Rescuers on Saturday escorted 137 hikers down to safety.

TOLL:

Six pupils and one teacher from TKPS, and a Singaporean adventure guide who helped the pupils were killed. Another pupil and teacher are missing.

earthquakesabahMount KinabaluNatural Disaster