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Friday, July 30, 2004


The Long Ranger Saga

::The search for survivors of the Long Ranger helicopter which went missing on 12th July finally ended 'late' last night. All 7 on board the ill-fated helicopter, which crashed at Mount Murud, Sarawak have been confirmed dead. Soon after the helicopter went missing, an intensive hunt was made for it. More than 1,200 people and 16 aircraft, including a PC Orion fitted with a “forward looking infra-red” system that can detect body heat and small metal objects, a GAF Nomad plane fitted with a hyper spectral imaging system to help out in remote sensing and an aircraft equipped with light detection and ranging apparatus and a special digital camera were involved in the search and rescue operation.

Finally after 15 days, on 27th July, the wreckage of the helicopter was located about 4km from the foot of Mount Murud, north-west of the original flight route, ironically, a place that had been searched extensively before. The wreckage was located by rescuers on board another helicopter. Initial reports said that the cabin of the ill-fated helicopter was intatct and this raised hopes that there would be survivors. Due to poor weather conditions and other things, it was only the next day, 28th July at about 520pm, that rescuers could be lowered down to the helicopter. The rescuers reported sighting 4 bodies in the helicopter and one outside, they were said to be badly decomposed. This again raised hopes that the other 2 passengers may have survived. Families prayed and hoped for the best.

On 29th July, Malaysiakini carried a report time-stamped at 353pm by Tony Thien, under this grim headlines :: Heli crash: All bodies found, grim identification task begins. But even at 433pm, Bernama was reporting :: Najib Expresses Sadness Five Victims Failed To Be Rescued. The 700pm news on TV1 showed Najib grim-faced expressing his sadness and saying that the remaining two were still unaccounted for. At 708pm Bernama said ::
"MIRI, July 29 (Bernama) -- The bodies of the five victims of the ill-fated Bell 206 Long Ranger can only be removed most probably Friday once easy access has been made to the crash site.
This was being done Thursday by clearing the area for a landing site for helicopters to fly in police personnel to the wreckage.
[......]
Meanwhile, there are still no news of the fate of two other persons on board the helicopter, which went missing since July 12 while flying from Bario to Ba'Kelalan."

Even at 800pm, national TV news continued to report that the fate of the 'missing duo' was not acertained. Finally at 906pm, Bernama carried this report :: ll Seven In Helicopter Crash In Sarawak Confirmed Dead.

Thus ended the hopes and prayers for the safety of the passengers of the ill-fated Long Ranger helicopter saga. An unfortunate ending as there were no survivors and prayers were left unanswered. What is left is for the families to bear the grief and to mourn the dead. The dead are assistant state minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Dr Judson Tagal, contractor Datuk Marcus Raja, Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation CEO Roger Wong, Sesco northern Sarawak manager Ling Kian Ho, Sesco engineer Jason Eng, Padawan Municipal Council chairman Lawrence Th’ng and pilot Capt Samsuddin Hassim.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who was in charge of the search and rescue operation had this to say ::
“I am so sorry. We have tried our best. I will meet the family members of all the seven in Miri soon.
“I pray that they will be strong. I pray for the deceased. May they rest in peace.”
.






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