TAMPARULI: A daughter’s wish to read the Koran with her father will not be fulfilled as she was feared drowned while swimming with friends at the Tamparuli River here on Wednesday.
It was learnt that Alijah Omar, 10, had gone to the river with two friends for a swim when she was swept away by strong current around 5pm. Her two friends however were saved.
“On the morning before the incident, I heard my sister telling my dad that she wanted to learn the Koran. She never had that interest before so we thought she was joking. We never realised that was her last wish,” said Alijah’s sister, Rabia Omar, 26, when met at the scene yesterday.
According to Rabia, around 3.30pm, Alijah told her that she wanted to go and see their mother who was working in a restaurant in Tamparuli.
“Around 6pm, a neighbor told us that a girl by the name of ‘Lijah’ had drowned in the river. Suspecting something not right, I called my mum and was told that Alijah never came to the restaurant,” she said, adding that she and other family members then went looking for Alijah.
Ruel Bitag, 28, the victim’s brother-in-law, said this was not the first time Alijah had gone to the river and when she did, she would be scolded by her father.
“I remember the last time she went to the river, about a month ago, her father beat her and told her not to play by the river.
“I guess she went to the river yesterday (Wednesday) without our knowledge,” he said.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness, Ervin Gadaun, 27, said he was walking on the bridge to cross to the other side when he saw one of the girls struggling in the river.
“As I was approaching the bridge, I saw a girl in pink T-shirt struggling in the river.
“At that time, a motorcyclist who happened to be near the area, jumped into the river to save the girl.
“As he was pulling the girl in pink T-shirt out from the water, another man yelled saying that there was another girl struggling in the river.
“Both men then tried to save the victim but failed as the water current was too strong,” he said.
According to Ervin, it was believed that only two girls had gone into the river for a swim while the third friend stayed on the river bank.
At press time, the body of Alijah had not been found and fire and rescue service personnel from Tuaran had called off the search and rescue operation as it was dark and a search would resume today at 6am.