'To see daughter's body unbearable': Father of pupil killed in Sabah quake

'To see daughter's body unbearable': Father of pupil killed in Sabah quake
Mr James Ho showing reporters the medal that was left for his daughter by Team Singapore netballers.

Worry, then hope and finally, grief.

Mr James Ho found himself going through the agony of trying to find out the fate of his young daughter.

Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, 12, a Primary 6 pupil of Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who had gone on the ill-fated climb up Mount Kinabalu, was first reported to be missing after a deadly earthquake struck Sabah on Friday.

Later that day, Sabah Parks announced on its Facebook page that Rachel was one of the first two climbers found dead.

But when a grieving Mr Ho, 45, touched down in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday, he found out the dead girl was not Rachel but her schoolmate, Peony Wee Ying Ping, also 12.

Just as he and his wife again became hopeful, news broke that Rachel, clad in an unmistakable pink jacket, was found motionless beside a boulder the size of a car on Mount Kinabalu.

Yesterday, Mr Ho, who works in a bank, told The New Paper at his daughter's wake at their Poole Road bungalow in Tanjong Katong, that it had been an agonising weekend for his family.

"It was a roller-coaster ride, from the point we were in the school on Friday waiting for 12 excruciating hours, to when Rachel's name was mentioned as the girl with the dead guide, to when it was clarified it was Peony," he said, often pausing during the 20-minute interview to wipe away his tears.

At that point, he and his wife still hoped that Rachel was still alive.

"We had a bit of hope. But then my friend sent me a picture and asked me if we were ready to see (the body)," he said.

They saw the picture, were reality hit hard, and left in tears.

"We could clearly identify Rachel as she was wearing a pink jacket.

"It was then that we accepted that she was gone. And all we wished for was to retrieve her body," he said.

Mr Ho said that Rachel was with a few others climbing the via ferrata - a mountain route consisting of fixed cables, ladders and a bridge - when the earthquake happened.

Twenty-eight other students and eight teachers from TKPS were also on the leadership camp when the 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck.

"They couldn't run as they were on a steep slope, and stones, rocks and boulders came down on them.

"So the boulders might have hit the ropes (the children) were on and brought the ropes down. The kids had no chance," he said.

Identifying the bodies was an equally difficult task, he said.

To date, the bodies of six pupils, a teacher and a Singaporean adventure guide have been recovered. Another pupil and a teacher are still missing.

"As a parent, to see your daughter lying motionless in the morgue, was unbearable," Mr Ho said.

PAINFUL FLASHBACKS

The flight in the C-130 aircraft back to Singapore was painful.

"It was three hours of flashbacks of what happened at that time, why she was there and memories of the body that we held at the morgue."

He and his wife have kept the news of Rachel's demise from their youngest son, 7. Their oldest son, 15, had cried his heart out after receiving the news on Sunday night, he said.

Mr Ho described his daughter as a lively, bubbly girl who dreamt of becoming a lawyer, banker or dentist.

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