Sabah quake: 2 missing S'poreans confirmed dead

Sabah quake: 2 missing S'poreans confirmed dead
A blue jersey with Mr Ghazi’s name and a special note pinned on it was laid out on a table at the Tribute Corner at Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) for the victims of the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.
PHOTO: NP

He was a small boy with a big personality.

Friends described 13-year-old Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar as a firecracker with an unmistakably boisterous laughter.

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Sadly, after being reported missing for five days, the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupil was confirmed dead yesterday morning.

TKPS teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, who was also reported missing, was also confirmed dead. (See report on facing page.)

Both were climbing Mount Kinabalu when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on Friday morning.

The news was a heavy blow to five fellow TKPS pupils who went on the same school trip as Navdeep.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, they all said Navdeep had left an indelible impression on them in the short time they had known him.

Arnaav Chabria, 11, said: "For the past few days, I've been praying and hoping that Navdeep was still alive.

"I cried when I heard the bad news."

The Primary 6 pupil added that Navdeep was popular in school and had plenty of friends.

"He's extremely well-liked. Everywhere he goes, people will say 'hi' to him.

"He's always trying to make people laugh and motivating them when they're feeling down.

"I'll miss the joy that he brings to people the most."

Raeka Ee, 12, added: "I was so shocked. Even though we only met at the start of the year, I'll miss him a lot."

Navdeep was a born leader who commanded respect, said Raeka.

"Everyone listened to him when he talked.

"When we were climbing stairs to train for the trip, he would encourage us not to give up when we were tired.

"He was like our cheerleader."

Twelve-year-old Jayden Francis' fondest memory of Navdeep was that of his booming voice filling the bus during their trip in Malaysia last week.

Jayden said: "I was sitting at the back of the bus, but I could hear him cracking jokes and laughing throughout the trip.

"He was a very joyful and happy person."

Navdeep's jokes will also be missed by Tristan Wing, 12.

Tristan said: "His jokes never failed to lift our spirits.

"His soft and deep laughter was infectious and would cheer us up when we were feeling tired or sad."

As for Ashley Lim, 11, Navdeep's death meant more than just the loss of a schoolmate.

She had regarded him as a big brother because he was older than her.

She said: "When I was bored, I'd talk to him about nonsense and he'd be my listening ear.

"He also helped me whenever I had trouble with my maths homework.

"I don't have an older brother so I treated him as one."

On Saturday, Navdeep's elder sister posted on Twitter that she was praying for a miracle.

Navdeep's father died two years ago and his sister wondered how her mother would handle the news if Navdeep did not survive, The Straits Times reported.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said yesterday that Navdeep's and Mr Ghazi's next-of-kin have been informed of their deaths and have asked for privacy while they grieve.

MOE said: "Their remains will return to Singapore upon completion of further forensic tests. This is expected to take some time.

"We will continue to provide support to the families during this difficult time."

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