MIRI: “The helicopter was sinking fast and water was gushing in,” Rowin Nanyong recalled the life-and-death situation he was in.
The chartered helicopter he was in with 12 others was sinking fast after it had plunged into the South China Sea while trying to land on a Shell oil platform some 50m above sea level at 12.05pm yesterday.
“I don’t know what actually happened. It was so fast. One moment we could see the landing platform and the next we were going down,” said Rowin, a contract worker with Shell Malaysia Bhd.
“The rescuers (from the Shell emergency response team on board the platform) reached us quickly with their lifeboats.
“It was all over within a short time. We were lucky the rescuers came fast,” he said at the Columbia Asia Medical Centre here, where the survivors were taken for observation.
The 13 men on board the helicopter had a shock when the helicopter they were in failed to land on the oil rig some 50 nautical miles off Bintulu.
The lucky 13 – two Malaysian pilots, eight Malaysian contract workers, two New Zealanders on attachment to Shell and a Briton – had left the Shell Miri base for a two-hour flight to the platform.
With water gushing into the helicopter from all sides, they swam out of the windows and followed the sounds of voices shouting out to them.
Rowin did not suffer any physical injuries, but his weary smile and a tight grip on his daughter revealed the shock he was in.
Some stood stone-faced while others hugged their wives and children at the medical centre.
Others just sat and a few talked about their lucky escape.
Lai Ming Kong, in his 30s and who is also a contract worker, said the pilot managed to control the helicopter and prevent it from crashing into the oil rig.
“He managed to avoid the platform when he realised he could not land on the landing pad.”
Another survivor, Foo Sie Kong, a contract worker in his 40s, said: “Water was gushing into the helicopter while we were trying to swim out of the windows. We heard shouts from rescuers and saw people coming to save us.
“It was over in a short time,” he said.
None of the survivors could describe in detail what actually caused the helicopter to plunge into the sea.
The survivors are Kapt Razak Kumar, David Lim, Chai Kah Ming, Lloyd Dennis, Abdul Rami, Rowin, Lai, Mohamed Gunawan and Foo (all Malaysians), Jim McDowell and Mark Dirdall (both New Zealanders) and Kuan Ching Wan (Briton).
The second pilot was identified as Capt Adenan.
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