*WARNING! You are reading a super long post, to my standard at least*
It was morning of 26th November, everybody was busy in the house getting ready, because today my dad, mom, Raihana, Nadiah and her husband Roy are going to Banggi Island, North of Sabah, where my dad came from. Rizal and myself didn’t go because of work commitment. Originally Hanafiah and his wife Zaiton would be coming along to but that day he is not feeling well and his wife had food poisoning. So its was just five of them, together with a few of my relative from my mother side, going by 5 cars all together. It was about midnight, I’m about to doze of when I received a phone call from my uncle from my dad side, informing me that the boat that was carrying them didn’t arrived. They were following a normal villager’s boat; very much the same as the one parked next to Pasar Besar KK, at about 4 pm. I have been in this type of boat a few time, mainly because of work. My company have a few project at Banggi Island and at times, I have to go there by these boat. Using this type of boat, you can easily reach Karakit in two hours time, if it’s not full of cargo and have a good engine, but most of the time its three hours. There is one passenger ferry service going to and from Karakit but its limited to one ferry only and during this time of the year, that ferry is always full. My family couldn’t make it to board that ferry because its already full. I think that’s why all of them decided to go using the ill-fated boat. At first thought of the news, I was thinking that maybe the boat was having an engine problem. But then again, you can still get faint signal on your mobile phone and message for help. It was half and hour after that that I have to prepare the worst. My dad was found floating on the sea and the boat had sunk, none of my family member; except for my dad, know how to swim.
The weather was fine, the sea was calm. Ferry was full so they decided to take a ride on a villager’s boat, which was scheduled to bring in construction supplies to Karakit. This is the normal practice over there, a harmless normal practice. They set off at about 4:30pm. Everyone was happy, this was their first boat ride to Karakit. My family had been to Karakit once a few years back but at that time we went by ferry. My brother and I had been there way before that because my dad was an ex-assemblyman for Banggi, between 1983 till 1985. I can imagine how exciting that was, surrounded by your loved one, playing with the water splashing by the side of the boat. From the photo that we manage to salvage from one mobile phone, belongs to my late cousin Haizum, the sea was calm, as if nothing could go wrong, nothing. Mom and Nadiah was in the cabin, Roy was at the stern, Raihana and dad at the bow, told my dad that they would prefer going home by boat and not ferry. As I said, it was fun. 10 minutes after saying that, the boat capsize, without any warning.
A wave had hit the boat on its side, coupled with the heavy cargo, fell to the other side of the boat, made the boat capsize. Everyone was caught off guard. Mom and Nadiah was in the cabin when it happened, drowned instantaneously. The rest tried to cling on the upside down boat. Not long after that, the wave swing the boat back into normal position. Although it is full of water, the cargo was already at to bottom of the sea. Everybody climb back into the boat. A cousin of mine did a chest compression on Nadiah and she manage to breath again while mom body was lying lifeless. Soon after Nadiah could breath again the boat capsize again for the 2nd time. That had ensure Nadiah’s fate. The boat had turned a few time before it sank to the bottom. Just before it sank, my dad manage to tie those who had drowned to the boat so that they wont drift away at the sea, thinking that the boat wont sank. It’s not easy to tie your loved one to the boat especially when it’s your own wife and daughter. The other two was my aunt and cousin. After the boat sank, the rest of the survivor just drifted for hours, fighting for their life as at this point, the wave keep pounding them. My dad was holding on the orange fish container which was floating while Raihana was holding to dad. It was hours when my sister told my father that she’s tired and couldn’t hold on anymore and said sorry. A few second after that she slipped away. That was the last dad saw her.
Among 21 of my family members, only 5 survived the tragedy, 2 still missing at sea.
Mom, you are not the best cook. You liked to add turmeric in all your cooking, and I always have to separate it before eating. Still, your cooking tells me that you’re at safe at home. You like to watch those Indonesian drama, even though the storyline sucks big time. At times I too get dragged watching it and started asking you all sorts of question and you would answer back without showing any sign of annoyance. That tells me you’re safe at home. I’m going to miss you.
Nadiah, you are one cool sister. You are the one who we turned to when we have a girl problem. Both of us liked female fronted band and nearly form our own band. I’m going to miss listening to your sweet voice. I still remember early of this year when I brought you along to a karaoke lounge with some friends, you left us mesmerize when you sang Foolish Games by Jewel. I loved hearing you singing Don’t Speak from No Doubt, which is our favourite band. You were a good friend to Erlinna when the both of you were posted to Johor. Now both of you would be friend eternally. I’m going to miss you.
Raihana, you are the brainiac of this family. I sucked at Add Maths but you’re not. I still remember when you asked me for help on one of your maths problem. I was in the process of finding the answer when you say “oh, sini pula salah. ok la bang.”. I was left speechless. You solved the problem before I could solve it. Like the rest of us, who loved to watch anime, active in Silat, know to play the guitar, you yourself would follow suit. You learn to play the guitar this year. A bother’s ego, always wanted to look great in front of his sister. I would always tried to teach you all I know about playing the guitar. I’m going to miss being that brother. I knew that somehow you could also sing. This video I got if from your boyfriend, who came to Kudat to wait patiently with the rest of us. Although you are still missing at sea, all of us know you are at a better place. I’m going to miss you.
Roy, you are a good man. I know you really loved my sister and so does my sister. You were among those who are safe, you cried knowing Nadiah was tied on the boat. The moment you were seperated from the other, everyone knew you went back to get your wife. As my sister said, cinta mati harus dijaga sampai mati, jangan sampai ke lain hati, you are now resting side by side with my sister, your wife, for eternity.
I’m not discouraging anyone who are reading this to not go and visit Banggi. It is a great place to visit. A few infrastructure are already in place since the last time I were there. I do hope everyone learned from this tragedy. This is not about whether life jacket should be provided on all boat. It is also about having safer transport as there are more and more people going in and out from that island. We need to also to have a good search and rescue plan in the event of such tragedy ever happen again. If I may give one suggestion, much like aeroplane which always states their estimated time of arrival, boat should do the same. If it didn’t arrived on time, search and rescue should be on their way. In my family case, it was about 6 hours when everyone started to look for them. 6 hours too late. The life jacket that was on that boat can only keep you floating for about 4 hours. Our family was sacrificed so that everyone would learn and benefit from it. Please don’t let them die in vain.
I was told that it is bad omen if a boat that had already set off to return to dock and set off again. That particular ill-fated boat had return back to pick up another 2 passenger before setting off again.
Coincidently on the evening of the tragedy, I was listening to the soundtrack from The Boat That Rocked. I thank you to a friend who pointed out to me that fact.
List of family members who were on the boat:
- Yahya Bin Othman (survived)
- Normah Bin Jainih (body found)
- Fatin Nadiah Bte Yahya (body found)
- Norhamisah Raihana Bte Yahya (lost at sea)
- Zaiddyroy Mohd Syukur (body found)
- Sudin Sugiman (survived)
- Ainah Bte Zaini (body found)
- Ahmad Tarmizi Bin Sudin (survived)
- Siti Zahirah Bte Sudin (survived)
- Akmal Izdihar Bin Sudin (body found)
- Haizum Nazihah Bte Sudin (body found)
- Afif Zakwan Bin Sudin (body found)
- Mazlan Bin Zaini (body found)
- Suzanna Bte Saiman (body found)
- Athirah Syafikah Bte Mazlan (lost at sea)
- Afza Syakirah Bte Mazlan (body found)
- Ahqef Sharkawi Bin Mazlan (body found)
- Fazwanie Farhain Bte Masnan (body found)
- Zurain Izora Bte Masnan (body found)
- Wahadhir Bin Hamdan (survived)
- Hajjah Aming Bte Nordin (body found)
Thank you for prayers and words of support given from everyone.