Sabah quake: Remains of missing duo identified

Members of Outram Secondary School's water polo team made 1,000 paper cranes and put them up on a wall at Tanjong Katong Primary School yesterday. The death toll from last Friday's quake in Sabah is now 18 - 10 of whom were on a Mount Kinabalu expedition with TKPS.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It was through their fingerprints and personal belongings that the Malaysian authorities confirmed the remains they found belonged to the climbers missing since last Friday's Sabah quake.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) acknowledged the deaths of pupil Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar and teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), yesterday and said their remains would be returned to Singapore once forensic tests are completed.

The duo are the last two victims to be accounted for. It raised fatalities from the 6.0-magnitude earthquake to 18, 10 of whom were on a Mount Kinabalu expedition with TKPS.

They are teachers, Mr Terrence Loo, 29, and Mr Ghazi, 35; Primary 6 pupils Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, Peony Wee Ying Ping, Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit, Sonia Jhala, all 12; Navdeep, 13; and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22.

The Malaysian authorities said yesterday they would end their search and rescue operations.

But families and friends are still struggling to come to terms with the deaths. At Sonia's funeral yesterday, her father Jaidipsinh Jhala, 48, said: "We have our moments, when we remember something about her and we break down, but it is all part of the grieving process."

He said Sonia, who played netball and water-skied, had been looking forward to climbing Mount Kinabalu since she was 10 and had worked hard to be chosen. She had died doing what she wanted, he said.

Up until yesterday, many still held out hope that Navdeep and Mr Ghazi would come home safe.

Mr Abdul Nasir, 49, team manager of MOE's football team on which Mr Ghazi played, said he was at TKPS on Tuesday but did not leave any tributes. "We were still hoping for good news."

Yesterday, he was back at the schoolwith about 30 teammates. "When we heard the news this morning, we decided to come again."

TKPS pupil Ammar Muhammad Ahmad Faisal, 12, said yesterday he got to know Navdeep at the start of the year. "We were in different classes but we played floorball and football together during recess time. Navdeep was competitive, but in a good way."

Navdeep's family declined to speak to the media yesterday, asking for time and space to grieve.

But The Straits Times understands that his aunt and uncle, who run a food business, closed shop yesterday as they were distraught. Prayers will be held for him tonight and tomorrow.

Mr Ghazi, an avid sportsman who was the subject head for co-curricular activities and physical education at TKPS, was well-loved by many.

A fellow teacher and friend, Mr Eugene Ng, wrote on Facebook: "I remember your smile and your graciousness. I never could match your stamina and skill on the field, but we played as equals because you treated me as one.

"Fare thee well, brother. Nil Sine Labore," he added, using a Latin phrase which means 'nothing without labour', the motto of Victoria School, which they went to as teenagers.

Housewife Regina Sheth, 38, a parent volunteer with TKPS who has two sons, said, as she pointed to the outdoor basketball court: "He always told the kids to believe in themselves. It's going to be impossible to come here and not see him standing there any more."

Mr Ghazi leaves behind his wife, a teacher at East View Secondary, and three young children.

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin, Calvin Yang and Rei Kurohi

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