KUCHING: Petrol kiosk worker and student feared drowned in swollen monsoon drain.
Petrol station worker Herman Sihas’ nature of going out of his way to help others in need may have cost him his own life.
Herman dived into a swollen monsoon drain yesterday to rescue a drowning Upper 6 student despite not knowing how to swim. The 28-year-old from Lundu jumped into the fierce water together with an off-duty fireman in a desperate but ultimately failed bid to save 19-year-old Kho Ying Qi.
Khoo fell into the monsoon drain while walking along the submerged road following flash floods which struck the city early yesterday.
Several co-workers described Herman, who only started working at the station a week ago after moving from another station in Kenyalang Park, as an extremely helpful and hard-working person who always put the needs of others above his own.
“I don’t know why he jumped in when he did not know how to swim, but I guess his instinct to help someone in distress made him forget the fact,” said co-worker Faidadul Maslan, 19, adding that Herman was always the first to arrive for work.
The incident took place around 7am, when Kho, an SMK Batu Lintang student, was leaving her school after classes were cancelled due to the flash flood.
According to a source, her Toyota car stalled along a flooded back road from the school leading to Jalan Rock, prompting her to call her mother for advice.
She was then told to abandon the vehicle and wait at a nearby bus stop for her mother to pick her up, and was making her way there when she slipped and fell into the swollen monsoon drain.
Meanwhile, 42-year-old fireman Talip Awie, a 17-year veteran of the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba), was coincidentally at the petrol station when Kho fell.
“I walked from the Batu Lintang fire station to the petrol station to meet up with my wife and four children after they were stranded by the flood.
“I had only just arrived when the workers shouted at me that a girl had fallen into the drain, and I turned to see her flailing arms as she was being swept away,” recalled Talip.
He said he dove into the drain and managed to grab Kho’s hair, but lost his grip due to the strong flowing water and could only watch as she vanished underwater.
He then climbed out of the drain and made his way back to the station, only to be told by the workers that one of their own had followed him and had also jumped into the drain to rescue the girl.
“I rushed back to the drain but could not see either one of them any more,” said Talip.
An extensive search-and-rescue operation was immediately launched, beginning at the point where the duo disappeared and stretching all the way to Sungai Maong Ulu.
Senior Bomba officer Farhan Sufyan Borhan said the search team comprised 10 firemen and four scuba divers, and that the operation would go on until the missing persons are found.
He added that the water level where Kho initially fell into the drain was about waist-high, but would have reached neck-high at the point where she disappeared.
It is also learned that the Civil Defence Department had despatched its personnel to aid in the operation.
A large crowd, including Herman’s sister and Kho’s mother, gathered at the scene after learning of the incident.
Late in the afternoon, firemen searching along the river at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce found a wrist watch which Kho’s father confirmed was his daughter’s as well as a shoe believed to belong to Herman.
City police chief ACP Mun Kock Keong said the search operation would continue until midnight, adding that as of 7pm none of the victims had been found.