KUALA NERANG - A boy watched in horror as his two sisters, a young friend and his neighbour who jumped into the Pedu Lake to try and rescue the three girls all drowned.
Siti Nor Afliana Yahaya, 13, whose body was fished out of the water 30 minutes after the tragedy yesterday morning, was earlier playing by the shore with her sister Siti Nor Hasliza, 16, and their friend Siti Hajar Azmi, 12.
A strong gust of wind at about 9.30pm suddenly pushed the float they were holding into the lake.
Their neighbour Karim Taufik, 36, who was on a pontoon with two other children, then jumped into the lake to try and rescue them. He never resurfaced.
Siti Nor Afliana's brother, Mohd Fikri, 11, said he was on the pontoon with Karim when he saw the three girls suddenly being swept into the lake.
He recalled how the girls clung desperately onto the float for a few minutes before the strong undercurrents took them under.
"I screamed for help. Karim told me to stay on the pontoon before he jumped into the lake.
"That was the last I saw of him," he told reporters at the scene yesterday.
The four victims from Bukit Lada in Pokok Sena were with 19 others from four families on a camping trip at the lake. They had been there since 5pm on Friday.
Siti Hajar's father Azmi Bakar, 52, said he was setting up tent when he heard a commotion.
"I looked out into the lake and I saw one of the girls waving frantically before disappearing under the water about 150m from shore."
He added that due to poor network coverage at the site, one of the family members had to drive some 6km to the nearest village to report the incident.
Padang Terap deputy OCPD Asst Supt Chang Kut Choy said seven scuba drivers had been searching for the victims since 10am. Local fishermen volunteered help as well.
The bodies of Siti Nor Hasliza and Siti Hajar were found at 6.30pm, several kilometres away from the lake shore where the families were camping.
The rescue operation was stopped at about 7pm. Karim has yet to be found.
Pedu Lake is a man-made lake covering an area of 75 sq km and is about 100m deep.