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Wednesday January 20, 2010

Dragon boat tragedy: Tears and more tears from family, teachers and friends

Penang dragon boat victims laid to rest

GEORGE TOWN: It was an emotionally-charged scene when family members, teachers and friends bade farewell to teacher Chin Aik Siang and two students who drowned in the dragon boat tragedy on Sunday.

Many came by the busloads from Chung Ling High School to pay their last respects to Chin, 28, Jason Ch’ng, 17, and Wang Yong Xiang, 16. The funeral services were held in different locations yesterday.

At Chin’s funeral, friends and relatives consoled his mother Lee Bee Hong, 56, who wept uncontrollably. The funeral was held in an open space below their flat block in Jalan Mohd Saad, Bagan Jermal here.

“Why did you have to go? Mummy loves you very much. I never thought you would go so soon,” Lee sobbed.

The hearse carrying his remains later went on a 1km procession accompanied by his sisters Dr Chin Im Im, 32, and Chin Shih Shih, 34, as well as a host of people including students and teachers, before heading for the Berapit crematorium at noon.

Deeply touched: Hajah Hasina Taha, 82, paying her respects to teacher Chin Aik Siang at his funeral service outside his family’s flat in Jalan Mohd Saad in Bagan Jermal, Butterworth, Tuesday. Hasina, from Penaga, Kepala Batas, said she was visiting a relative in the neighbourhood when she heard about the tragic deaths of Chin and five students in Sunday’s dragon boat tragedy. ‘Although, I did not know him, I wanted to pay my respects. It’s a pity that he died so tragically at a young age,’ she said at the funeral that was attended by about 500 people.

On the island, the funeral services of Jason at the Mount Erskine funeral parlour and Yong Xiang at his home in Johor Road were equally emotionally-charged.

More than 1,000 friends and relatives turned up for Jason’s funeral. Many of his friends consoled each other as they bade their last goodbye to the bright and popular student.

A few female friends from Union High School and Penang Chinese Girl’s High School arrived in their school uniform and broke down the moment they saw his casket.

When the band played the song Peng You (Friend), his friends tearfully joined in.

Eric Tan, 17, who used to hang out with Jason and Brendon Yeoh (who also died in the tragedy), said the two were “simply the craziest buddies I had ever known”.

“They even decided to name our gang Apom just because we love to eat Apom so much. I will miss them very much.

“There were five of us in our gang and we were very close. We were always together. Now, there is just three of us left,” he said.

Students who brought along gifts, drawings and letters placed them on top of Jason’s casket.

Over at Yong Xiang’s funeral, miniature bamboo structures usually constructed during annual Scouts’ camps were placed on his casket as a farewell gift.

A student, who declined to be named, said they decided to make him the structures since Wang, a scout member, would no longer join them in the camps.

It was a heart-wrenching scene as Yong Xiang’s parents took a last glimpse of their only child and his friends made their long bow before the casket was wheeled into the hearse.

Solemn oath: Chung Ling High School’s Leo Club members sobbing as they recite the Leo Pledge at Jason’s funeral Tuesday.

His remains were cremated at the Mount Erskine crematorium while Jason’s at the Batu Gantong crematorium.

Yong Xiang’s father Wang Hong Gun, 56, said he would not be taking legal action against the school as “what is done is done”.

Leaders led by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin visited the tragedy site where Chin, Jason and Yong Xiang and three others perished during training at sea.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, was briefed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob.

Meanwhile, Chin’s family members are puzzled as to why he had been on board the ill-fated vessel when he could not swim.

Lee said her son was not a swimmer, and that news of him drowning from participating in a water sports activity, came as a shock to them.

“He told me he was going to school for another co-curricular activity but did not say he was going for dragon boat training.

“I was later told that he had only been appointed as the school’s dragon boat club adviser barely a month back,” she said.

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