Guide died taking care of S'pore pupils

Guide died taking care of S'pore pupils

RANAU - Five minutes after the quake hit, 28-year-old Valerian Joannes, a guide of the group from Tanjong Katong Primary School, called his cousin to say he was fine.

Mr Felix Fenien said Mr Valerian spoke frantically over the walkie-talkie. But that was the last time anyone heard from him.


"Valerian could have gotten out of harm's way, but he wanted to make sure that nobody got hurt under his watch," Mr Felix told the New Straits Times.

"His last words were: 'I'm safe here but I need to take care of the children.' Nobody heard from him until the search team told us they found him dead."

Mr Valerian's father said he was proud of his son. "My son is dead, I accept it... I am happy that he died a hero," Mr Joannes Lubak tearfully told The Star newspaper on Sunday. He said other guides told him that his son, the fourth of 10 siblings, was on the rope with Singapore students.

"I was told that Valerian grabbed the harness of the students and tried to shield them from the falling rocks, but the rope snapped," he said.

All of them were believed to have fallen together.

Mr Valerian's fiancee Jessica Sikta, 25, said she is still trying to come to terms with his sudden death.

She told The Malaysian Insider news website that during their last video call on Thursday night, they discussed plans for their wedding, which had been scheduled for November.

Another Malaysian guide has died from injuries sustained during the earthquake.

The death of Mr Joseph Selungin, 33, was announced by his employer, tour company Amazing Borneo, yesterday. He had worked for the company for almost two months.

It said that Mr Selungin was found under a boulder, in the act of protecting two guests from the landslide of rocks triggered by the quake.

His two guests also died, according to Amazing Borneo.

In its statement on Facebook, the company expressed condolences to Mr Selungin's family, including his wife, their four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. They were to celebrate their wedding anniversary on June 12.

Yesterday, the company started a campaign to raise funds for his family, just as it did for another of its guides, Mr Robbi Sapinggi, 30, who was also hailed for his heroism during the quake.

During Mr Robbi's wake on Sunday, one of his brothers spoke about finding his body. Mr Binker Sapinggi told The Star: "When we were picking up his body, I lost all my strength. I asked the three guides who were with me to carry his body down while I led the way."

Asked if the tragedy has dampened his spirits to continue in the profession, Mr Binker - a mountain guide for more than four years - said he was uncertain. "I'm not sure whether I want to continue guiding. I am not confident enough," he said.

But his brother Henry, the eldest of the 10 Sapinggi siblings and a porter and mountain guide since 1996, said he would continue guiding in memory of his deceased brother.

"Robbi wouldn't want me to give up this job. Four out of five boys in my family... are mountain guides. So was our father Sapinggi Lajon," he said.

Meanwhile, a photograph of another guide, Mr Mhd Rizuan Kauhinin, carrying an injured child on his back has gone viral on social media.

On being called a hero, the 25-year-old told The Star: "I really don't know what to feel... I'm not a famous person. What I did was out of sincerity, not to get fame... All that mattered was to bring the boy to safety."

Mr Rizuan said he and another guide had found the boy writhing in pain.

He recalled: "The boy couldn't move because he had injured his back. We gave him something to eat. I had water with me, so I also shared some with him.

"We then lifted him up from the ground and I carried him on my back for the descent."

This article was first published on June 9, 2015.
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