Monday, December 03, 2007

LIMA Tragedy

LANGKAWI: Three paratroopers, two of them women, drowned when strong winds blew them and 17 others out to sea while they were rehearsing for the opening day of Lima '07.

Eleven others were injured in the 10.15am incident, two of them critically. Five of the injured were women.They were among 138 paratroopers who jumped from a height of 333 metres from two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft over the Langkawi International Airport.
The paratroopers were rehearsing for the opening show of Lima '07 tomorrow, where they will simulate an airfield seizure.Ranger Siti Hajar Yakub, 24, died at the scene while private Nurul Wahida Mohamad Yunus, 20, and trooper Raimon Duncan, 25, died at the Langkawi Hospital.

Doctors spent more than an hour trying to resuscitate Nurul Wahida and Raimon but to no avail. The two were declared dead before noon.Siti Hajar, of Masjid Tanah in Malacca, was attached to the 8 Ranger Parawin while Nurul Wahida, of Tanjung Malim, Perak, was with the 17 Royal Malay Regiment Parawin.Raimon, of Simunjan, Sarawak, was attached to the Squadron Armour Para.
Of the two critically injured, Suraya Ali, 23, is warded at the hospital's intensive care unit while Zaliza Zakaria, also 23, was flown to the Alor Star Hospital for emergency surgery. Both suffered broken ribs and punctured lungs.
One of the other nine injured was given outpatient treatment while the rest were warded at the Langkawi Hospital for various injuries.District police chief Supt Mohamed Ali Jamaluddin said the group was among 138 paratroopers from the 10th Para Brigade based at the Terendak Camp in Malacca who jumped over the airport.
There were 80 troops in each aircraft but it was unclear why the rest did not jump.It is possible that jumpmasters aboard the aircraft stopped the jumps when the group got into trouble.
Sources said jumpmasters had gauged wind speed readings and had given the green light for the jump. But an easterly wind picked up as the paratroopers were descending, blowing some of them 200m off course out to the sea between the water breakers and the beach in Pantai Cenang.
Some of the injured touched down on dry land, but not before crashing through branches and breaking their bones.Mohamed Ali said a search-and-rescue operation comprising 70 members of the navy, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Fire and Rescue Department, marine police and hospital emergency staff was launched but it was a while before the first body was found.
"The operation was called off at 12.53pm once it was established that all the paratroopers were accounted for," he said at Langkawi Hospital.Post-mortems on the paratroopers were completed by 7pm. After their bodies were cleaned, the remains of Nurul Wahida and Siti Hajar were taken to the hospital's surau for prayers.
All three were transported to the airport from where the body of Raimon was flown to Kuching and those of Nurul Wahida and Siti Hajar were flown to the Subang air base. From there, they were transported to their hometowns for burial.
Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Gen Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin said the airfield-seizure simulation would go on as planned tomorrow.He said yesterday's rehearsal was to have been held last Saturday but had been postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances" and was meant to be the last before the actual show.
Azizan said there would be another jump today to prepare for the show.