Bus crash survivor puts nightmare behind her

(Left) Wolter placing flowers at the site of the fatal accident along the Simpang Pulai-Kampung Raja road, near Cameron Highlands. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star(Inset) The ill-fated express bus that plunged into a ravine in 2004. — filepic

PERCHED on a boulder overlooking the ravine, she watched the letter in her hand go up in smoke, taking with it all of her negative emotions from the crash she survived more than 13 years ago.

Dutch entrepreneur Frederieke Wolter, 45, was one of the survivors of a deadly bus crash that claimed five lives during a descent from Cameron Highlands on Dec 23, 2004.

While on holiday around South-East Asia this month, she made it a point to visit the accident site along the Simpang Pulai-Kampung Raja road, seeking to put the traumatic incident behind her.

“Some people did not understand why I would want to come back after such an accident but I’m really happy to be here,” said Wolter.

Wolter and her ex-partner were seated right behind the driver and the tragedy struck shortly after she felt the sinking feeling that the driver was going a little too fast.

The bus plunged off the road around KM12 from Simpang Pulai and fell 25m into a ravine. The roof and windows of the bus had come off cleanly.

Wolter recalls waking up trapped under the bus, feeling numb and in shock. She had a broken arm, broken pelvis and several broken ribs, and she felt lucky to come out of the accident alive.

She was brought to Gleneagles Penang Medical Centre for recovery which would take five weeks.

The ill-fated express bus that plunged into a ravine in 2004. — Filepic
The ill-fated express bus that plunged into a ravine in 2004. — filepic

Coincidentally, Penang was hit by waves from the deadly 2004 tsunami off the coast of Aceh, Indonesia just days later.

Wolter said it felt a little surreal because her family and friends were more anxious about her situation than she was herself.

“When people heard about it, they thought it was a big deal. But it was different for me because I knew the worst was behind me,” she said.

Always one to see the silver lining in every cloud, Wolter spent her days in the hospital socialising with the doctors and nurses and learned a lot about Malaysia from her hospital bed.

Something that changed her perspective on life was how the doctors and nurses she met would share their views of different religions on her misfortune and recovering from it.

“I think it’s super interesting that it’s more common for people here to think about spirituality or religion,” she said.

“When you meet with an accident, something changes within your soul and you get stronger afterwards,” said Wolter, adding that some of the nurses even gave her books on religion to read.

She acknowledged that if not for the stronger person that she had become as a result of the accident, she might not have had what it takes to start her company.

Although Wolter admitted to not personally knowing any of the victims who died in 2004, she laid some colourful daisies and chrysanthemums near the ravine where the accident happened, to honour their memory.

At the same time, she wrote a note to express any ill feelings she might have had regarding the accident and burned it as a symbol of letting go and moving on.

“I think it was good for me to make this trip because this was a big event in my life,” said Wolter, adding that the act helped her lift a burden off her shoulders.

“An event like this makes you stronger, makes you appreciate life more, and makes you feel grateful that you’re alive.”

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