MERSING: RMAF commando Sjn Saad Che Omar, 34, who went missing after the boat carrying him and five others capsized in the South China Sea near Pulau Sibu on Sunday, was found alive at 6pm yesterday, after 31 hours in the sea.
His two missing colleagues – Kpl Hasnul Abdul Rahman and Kpl Ayub Sidek – both 27, did not survive the ordeal – their bodies were found yesterday morning.
Sjn Saad was spotted by a police helicopter search and rescue team two nautical miles off Tanjung Siang near here.
Southern Region marine police public affairs officer Insp Salihin Othman said Sjn Saad waved to the rescue team when he saw the helicopter, which was unable to retrieve him as it lacked a winching machine.
“The rescue team then alerted the search and rescue centre at Tanjung Leman which immediately dispatched an RMAF helicopter, which had been on stand-by there, to the area.
“The helicopter took about 45 minutes to winch Sjn Saad out of the water and immediately flew him to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru,” he said.
The hospital, which was alerted to the arrival of Sjn Saad, stationed medical personnel near the helicopter landing pad.
At 7pm, the RMAF helicopter landed at the hospital and within a few minutes, Sjn Saad was wheeled into the intensive care unit on a stretcher, still clad in army fatigues.
Insp Salihin said Sjn Saad was in stable, healthy and strong condition when he was winched out of the water.
“He was spotted some 20km away from the area where the bodies of his two colleagues were found earlier in the day,” he said.
The bodies of Kpl Hasnul and Kpl Ayub were found entangled in a fishing net about 2.8 nautical miles off Tanjung Gemoh near here at 8.55am.
They were still clad in their commando fatigues and life jackets. One of them still had his binoculars strapped to his body when they were spotted by the navy’s KD Kris commanding officer Leftenan Komander Anuar Mohamed.
KD Kris was among scores of vessels including those from the marine police and nearby fishermen involved in the search and rescue operation for the three commandos.
The commandos had left the Tanjung Leman jetty to scout for a training site near Pulau Sibu when their boat capsized during a squall at 10.30am on Sunday.
Their three other colleagues – Mej Aundrey Smith, 43, Kapt Damian Sebastian, 30, and Sjn Radzi Abdul Majid, 35, – had managed to swim to shore within the same day of the incident.
Leftenan Komander Anuar said the bodies were retrieved by several of his men in stormy weather and were taken to the Kompleks Perikanan Tanjung Sedili where at 10.55am they were transferred to a helicopter which flew them to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital mortuary.
Leftenan Komander Anuar said the area where the bodies were found was about 16 nautical miles from the site where their boat had capsized.
“They were tied to each other with ropes,” he said.
According to Mej Smith, when their boat capsized, he instructed his men to split into two groups and tie themselves together so they would not drift apart.
Mej Smith and Sjn Radzi were in one group while Sjn Saad, Kpl Hasnul and Kpl Ayub were in the other group.
Mej Smith had earlier sent Kapt Sebastian out to swim for help with the only pair of flippers available.
Three hours later help had not arrived and they decided to swim for shore. He said they were forced apart when three big waves hit them at 5pm.
Did you find this article insightful?