Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life jacket poser after copter crash: Victim's family wonders if ill-fated aircraft had any on board

KUCHING: THE relatives of one of the three victims who died in last Friday's helicopter crash in Batang Lupar have expressed there were no life jackets on board.

The talk among relatives and friends yesterday at the Petra Jaya home of Siti Khuzaimah Annuar, 27, was: "Could she and the other two victims have survived if they had life jackets?"

Siti Khuzaimah was a quantity surveyor with Sebiro Holdings, the company that owned the helicopter that plunged into the river near Kampung Triso.

The other two victims are architect Henry Loh and state Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president Peter Ato Mayau.

Ato is a business associate of Sebiro Holdings owner Datuk Sng Chee Hua.

State Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director Ling Swee Ing said he was not in a position to say whether the helicopter was carrying life jackets or if it was mandatory for it to have life jackets.

He said officers in DCA's flight operations section were more competent to answer those questions.

A source in the aviation industry said it was mandatory for all aircraft in Malaysia flying over water or close to water to have enough life jackets on board.

The sources said DCA crash investigators had started their investigations and some questions could be answered if they recovered the wreckage.

Sng yesterday paid his last respects and offered his condolences to the family of Siti Khuzaimah at her home.

He was then asked if the helicopter had life jackets. "I do not want to answer any questions on life jackets (on my aircraft) as it is a technical issue."

None of those who died had life jackets on when their bodies were recovered. They reportedly also could not swim.

The pilot, the only survivor, swam for about four hours to seek help without a life jacket.

Yesterday, a nephew of Loh, whose body was found yesterday, posted a message on Facebook, saying he wanted to know why Sng had asked the four to fly in such bad weather.

Loh, 42, was not an employee of Sebiro, as reported earlier, but an employee of a private firm engaged by Sebiro Holdings.

Siti Khuzaimah was buried at the Gita Muslim cemetery yesterday.

Her mother, Hashimah Fadzli, said: "My daughter was so much against flying that day."

She said Siti Khuzaimah had been "forced" to fly.

The weather over the city on Friday was poor with reduced visibility because of heavy rain.  In an SMS to her mother just before take off, Siti Khuzaimah asked her mother to pray for a safe journey.

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