Remembering The Double Six-The June 6, 1976 Tragedy

(To complete this entry, I referred to some past publications and work by some amazing people/Organizations. Credits mentioned at the end of this entry-using the APA format citation)

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@joehairie posing in front of the Double Six Monument

We were having our dinner at Grace Point, Sembulan when I saw this monument that really made we wonder the history of The Double Six. I was still a baby when the tragedy occurred, so I know nothing about it. 0, yes nothing. Months ago, we invited my parents for lunch at this place and I remembered my mom (Madam Mary Lansing) talking about the tragedy. She said that she lived in that area, Kampung Sembulan and witnessed the whole tragedy. She also told us that the area was actually full of sea water or something. I was laughing when hearing her story as she claimed that everyone was running here and there (I mean for what and how?)..I thought that was the sea.

Were they running in the sea? It turned out that the Kampung Sembulan had some wooden path that leads to the houses and people were running out of their homes to see the ill fated plane. Mom, where did you put me while you are running here and there? Really, I forgot to ask her that question. My dad kept quite all the time until he said, oh yes I was about to go there too…??? Yup, I was curious to know the history of this tragedy. So I took time doing some research and this is my version based on the facts that I compiled from the sources (refer to citation at the end of this entry). I read some online previous posts about the same topic and I did interview my own mom.

The Victims Of The Plane Crash

With the highest respect and sadness, (with a mention of honor to the family members of the victims), those died in the tragic tragedy were:

Chief Minister Of Sabah- Tun Fuad Stephens along with:

-Minister of Local Government Sabah Datuk Peter Mojuntin
-Minister of Transport and Public Works Sabah Datuk Chong Thien Vun
-Finance Minister of Sabah Datuk Salleh Sulong
-Assistant Minister to Deputy Chief Minister, Darius Binion
-Secretary to Finance Ministry of Sabah Wahid Peter Andu
-Permanent Secretary of Sabah Economic Planning Unit Syed Hussein Wafa
-Private Secretary to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Encik Ishak Atan
-Bodyguard to Stephens, Corporal Mohamad Said
-Aircraft’s Pilot, Captain Gandhi J. Nathan, and
-Stephens foster son, Johari John Stephens.

Before we get started with more facts of the tragedy, allow me to show some pics that I compiled from my research. How does Kota Kinabalu looked like in the old days and where exactly was the location of the tragedy?

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Kota Kinabalu in 1910-The Crash site in 1976 pointed by the arrow
New 2
Kota Kinabalu in the early 80’s. Note the arrow, that was where the tragedy occurred
New 3
Kota Kinabalu as it is now. Look at the arrow.

Now let’s get the fact organized. I will skip the story about the day before the crash as I personally think it is too long to be relayed here. Also, I do not want to get into trouble later just because I re write about something that I am not sure of. It can get a bit political thus it is better for me to stay away from the happenings right before everyone boarded the ill fated plane. I will jump to the part where the plane was about to land. If you must read about whose who and what was what before the boarding, click HERE. What I re wrote below here are based on Wikipedia source.

Cited from WIKIPEDIA

The Borneo Bulletin newspaper published on 12 June 1976, mentioned that Tun Fuad’s son, Johari Stephens (25 years old, trainee pilot) asked if he could ride the aircraft in the co-pilot seat. The request was granted and the aircraft took off from Labuan. The flight from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu usually takes around 40 minutes. Tun Fuad’s aircraft should have landed at 3:30 pm at the Kota Kinabalu Airport. The weather was good and the VIP aircraft should have received immediate clearance for landing. However, the aircraft circled and approached the airport from the north. It was claimed that the ground control tower instructed the aircraft to make another turn because of an inbound MAS-737 flight to the airport. An airport official claimed that there were conflicting instructions from the ground control tower.

George Mojuntin, the eldest son of the Mojuntin family, was one of the eyewitnesses of the aircraft crash. He and his friends were playing golf when the aircraft crashed into the Sembulan Sea while it was trying to land at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. The aircraft was 600 feet above, flying at 86 knots, approaching the runway from the north, seemed to stalled mid-air with one wing dipped down and suddenly spiraled (exactly one and a half turns) towards the shallow sea which was three feet deep and crashed.

It was 3:41 pm and 27 seconds. Eyewitnesses at Kampung Sembulan Baru reported that they heard an explosion at about 3:30 pm. When they rushed out from their homes, they saw an aircraft broken into two with cockpit embedded in the sandbank about three feet deep.Parts of the aircraft was embedded in the sea while part of it was exposed above the water. According to Far Eastern Economic Review published on 18 June 1976, the aircraft flown over the Kampung Sembulan Baru at 200 to 300 feet as it approaches the north eastern end of the runway. The aircraft was veering from side to side before it went into a spiral and crashed.

The aircraft was in a total wreck. Blood was coming out from the wrecked aircraft and dyed the surrounding waters into crimson colour. The crash scene is located less than 50 feet from the nearest village Kampung Sembulan Baru and 3 km from the airport. Tun Fuad brother Ben Stephens and Police Commissioner Yusof Khan were among the first who arrived at the scene. The Police Commissioner cut open the aircraft. Among the first items floated out from the crash scene was Tun Fuad white shoes. Ben Stephens and the Police Commissioner managed to pull out the body of Tun Fuad’s bodyguard named Corporal Said who was seated at the back of the aircraft. Police Commissioner Yusof Khan recalled:

There were bodies all over the floor of the plane…,they were mangled in different ways. Tun Fuad was sprawled (falls with one’s arm and legs spread out in an awkward way) grotesquely (unnatural shape), his limbs at an odd angle to his body. I recognized him by his size. Peter Mojuntin had his face untouched but there was only a bloody hole at the back of his head. The smell of blood was terrible and my chaps were at the point of fainting, but we managed to get the bodies out of the plane and lined up near to it so that we could make a quick identification. There were no survivors. 

— Police Commissioner Yusof Khan on 6 June 1976

All the bodies were converged at the cockpit except for one who was still in strapped into position by his safety belt. The cockpit was buried into the ground. Captain Nathan was found at the pilot seat while Johari Stephens (Tun Fuad’s son) was found at the co-pilot seat. All the bodies were mutilated beyond recognition except for Peter Mojuntin face who still remained intact. One head was found to be severed and located at a distance from the body. One eye witness described the condition as “their bodies turned jelly with practically every bone in their bodies broken or smashed”.

Firemen were the first to arrive at the scene. Policemen then came to seal off the area. Axes were used to cut open the aircraft and 11 bodies were removed. 2 revolvers, 5 watches, and RM 6,000 cash were recovered. All the bodies were rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for stitching. Doctors worked for more than 6 hours to stitch up the body parts. Ben Stephens and Tengku Razaleigh then arrived at the mortuary for formal identification of the bodies.

Australian GAF NOMAD aircraft manufacturer decided to launch an investigation in order to prove that the crash was not due to mechanical defect. The company sent its chief pilot, Stuart Pearce, and chief designer David Hooper, to investigate the crash. They were also accompanied by two Australian Department of Transport Officials. The Australian Department of Transport had previously issued the aircraft’s certificate of fitness.On 28 October 1976, 4.5 months after the tragedy, the investigations were over. Investigation findings were not made public. Deputy Communication Minister, Enche Mohd Ali bin M Sharif instead made a statement about the investigation findings:

The findings of an investigating team did not reveal any technical errors or sabotage as being the causes of the air crash. What they have instead discovered is that the fault was due to human error. It was also revealed that the aircraft’s storage space at the back of the aircraft, was loaded with goods above the maximum load. As a consequence this had resulted in the aircraft losing control when it attempted to land at the Kota Kinabalu Airport, thus resulting in the accident.

— Mohd Ali bin M Sharif statement in 1976

 

Some old pictures from Joshua Kuang’s photobucket. (Sorry about the blurry images-There is nothing I can do about it)

D6B

D6D

D6E

D6F

D6G

D6H

 

My Mom Version and my thoughts afterwards

“I was like doing some chores that day when I suddenly heard a big BANG outside and not far from the place I was at. I immediately ran and followed other villagers to see what’s going on out there. I reached that place and I saw police and firemen were all over trying to get the victims out from the plane. We were asked to clear the area so that the authorities can do their work. One of the 11 victims was actually barely alive but declared dead soon. There were blood everywhere and the smell was so terrible although the incident has just occurred. The water of the sea where the plane crashed turned into red color. People were doing all sort of things, asking, yelling, helping, crying and so on. I had to go back to home because I had so many things to do. One thing for sure, not even a single house affected by the crash” Madam Mary Lansing-March 30, 2016.

Although this year (2016) will be the 4oth year anniversary of this tragedy, I am still sad because Sabah lost so many great leaders on that day. I wonder what will the Sabah politic scenario be like today if all that great leaders did not became the victims on that fateful day. I am deeply sorry for all the victim’s  family members. Their life must be different now if that crash did not happen. We all believe in our own religion and we know that one day we will all be gone from this temporary world. Therefore, we must accept any destiny that being blessed for each of us. People come and go, but great people shall not be forgotten. I don’t really care what cause the tragedy. I only care about the feelings of having to be in deep sorrow and sadness due to the loss of important people in your life. Imagine if that happens to one of our family members. It won’t be long now before the 4oth anniversary. I wish to take this opportunity to convey my condolences (never too late ya) to the family members of all the 11 victims.

I bet majority of younger people are not aware of this tragedy. Yes, they know about this monument but they do not know what actually happened that day. There are some parts of the tragedy that remains mystery until today (for an unknown reason) but past is past and I do not want to write about that. We always learn from mistakes. I am looking forward to attend if there is any Remembrance Anniversary happening this year. I am just not so sure on how to get invited. If someone out there knows how, please do tell me. I am still wondering how was my mom reaction on that fateful day, she did not specify whether she was calm or panicking or anything. She told me her version in a casual way. Let us together remember the day that changed almost everything, remember the lost of some important people that most of us never met or even know their details..Let us Remember The Double Six as suggested by the Monument itself…Tugu Peringatan Double Six.

The monument is located in the Grace Park, Sembulan and besides it are the Double Six Gallery and a Food Court complex. The Double Six Gallery exhibits pictures, newspaper clips and memorabilia of the untoward event as well as the family photographs of the late ministers. A debris of the crashed plane is also on display. 

 

References

Joshua Kuan. Photos Collection. Retrieved on April 1. 2016 from http://s180.photobucket.com/user/13Friday_7/library/?sort=3&start=all&page=1

KFN Travel Guide.Entry Top Image.Retrieved on April 1, 2016 from http://kfntravelguide.com/Double%20Six%20Monument

Madam Mary Lansing. An Interview on March 30, 2016. She is one of the many living witness in that June 6, 1976 Tragedy.

Mamadou. Monument Double Six, Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu (May 13, 2009). Retrieved on April 1, 2016 from https://everythingspossible.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/monument-double-six-sembulan-kota-kinabalu/

Stephen Hsieh (February 11, 2012) Borneo Reflections. Images retrieved on April 1, 2016 from http://borneoreflections.blogspot.my/2012/02/bonding-with-gaya-street-kota-kinabalu.html

Tregonning, K. G. (1965). A history of modern Sabah 1881-1963. Singapore: Published for the University of Singapore by the University of Malaya Press

Wikipedia (Last Modified March 20, 2016) 1976 Sabah Air GAF Nomad Crash. Retrieved on April 1, 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Sabah_Air_GAF_Nomad_crash

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