Helicopters have always been used as an alternative transport for those wanting to cut short travelling time from one place to another in Sarawak, given the vast and rough geographical terrains across the state. This said, Sarawakians have witnessed the tragedies of more than a dozen accidents involving helicopters over the past three decades. The following is a brief description of the incidents that occurred between 1989 and 2015.
Dec 18, 1989
— New Zealanders, pilot Smert Donald James and Richard Mills, were injured after their helicopter crashed in Belaga District.
July 17, 2003
l A Bell helicopter crashed into Mount Murud within minutes after taking off from a timber camp, about three-and-half-hour drive from Lawas town. Both the pilot and Sarawak Borneo Evangelical Mission (SIB) president Kalib Besar were killed.
July 12, 2004
l This high-profile accident involved a Bell 206 Long Ranger helicopter plunged into the foot of Mount Murud, killing all seven people on board. The victims included Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Office Dr Judson Sakai Tagal, Padawan Municipal Council chairman Lawrence Th’ng, Sesco chief executive officer Roger Wong, contractor Datuk Marcus Raja, Sesco engineers Jason Eng and Ling Tian Ho, as well as the pilot Capt Samsuddin Hashim.
The probe report by Department of Civil Aviation found that the ill-fated arircraft, also owned by Hornbill Skyways, was flying at high altitude with low power margin, and during heavy rain and strong winds. The unpredictably quick formation of clouds and air turbulence within the vicinity of Mount Murud had been deemed as being contributory to the crash.
Aug 15, 2004
l A Nuri helicopter carrying 10 people crash-landed 15km from Ba Kelalan. It was only found on Aug 16, amidst a forested area about 1,500m above sea level. Three Royal Malaysian Air Force personnel were killed in the crash, while seven others survived. The helicopter from the 7th Squadron based in Kuching was ferrying supplies to army personnel stationed at the Malaysia-Indonesia border near Ba Kelalan. It took off from Miri at 1.56pm and was reported missing after making its last radio contact with the control tower at 2.36pm, while flying over Long Seridan.
Sept 3, 2004
lA Bell helicopter crashed some 70km from Kuching, killing all four on board— just five minutes after taking off from Kuching International Airport. Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s bodyguard and Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu’s private secretary were among the victims.
June 18, 2005
l An MHS Super Puma crashed into the South China Sea, carrying 11 Shell personnel and contractor’s staff members on board. It was on its way to the B11 gas production platform in Bintulu. All 11 lived to tell their harrowing experience.
l A Bell L-4 helicopter crashed into the mountainous region near Long Singgut in Ulu Baleh, killing three of its occupants, while one survived. The crash site was a day’s journey upriver from Kapit.
Sept 3, 2005
l A logging helicopter, of the Kamov KA-32 model, crashed in Kapit Division during heavy rain, killing three Russian nationals on board — the pilot, an engineer and a mechanic.
Jan 30, 2007
l A Super Puma L-2 helicopter belonging to the Malaysian Helicopter Services plunged into the rough South China Sea. It was carrying eight offshore crew members and two pilots. The helicopter went down at about 2.30pm between the D-35 and Bayan platform. One passenger was reported missing, while the rest were rescued about 80km offshore Bintulu.
June 26, 2010
l An American pilot was killed when a Sikorsky S-64 helicopter carrying logs, crashed 50 miles south of Long Akah, Ulu Baram. His American co-worker, David William Bergin, survived the accident but sustained serious spinal injuries, bruises and knocks.
July 20, 2012
l The helicopter belonging to Sebiro Holdings was heading to Nanga Merit when it crashed into Sungai Triso estuary near Sebuyau, Sri Aman. The victims were then-state PKR vice-chairman Peter Ato Mayau, quantity surveyor Siti Khuzaimah and architect Henry Loh. German pilot Rico Steger survived after he managed to get out of the wreckage and swam for a few hours before reaching Kampung Tebelu in Sebuyau. Bad weather was cited as the cause of the accident.
Dec 12, 2013
l Two pilots and six Petronas-appointed workers survived after their helicopter crashed into sea off Miri. The aircraft encountered problems before it could land and crashed into sea before making it to an offshore platform, 92 nautical miles off Bintulu. All eight were rescued.
Apr 4, 2015
l The helicopter crash that killed Rompin MP Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis and five others might not happen in Sarawak, but it was an incident that shocked the nation last year. The aircraft crashed in Semenyih, Selangor — not far from its intended destination in Sungai Besi — at 4.55pm. It took off at earlier that day from Kuantan, Pahang. According to a witness, the helicopter exploded in mid-air before crashing and exploding one more time in a rubber estate near Jalan Sungai Lallang, Kampung Pasir Baru. The aircraft was a commercial Eurocopter AS365 N2 Dauphin.