IPOH: The scene of the tragic bus accident that killed 27 people in Simpang Pulai some nine years ago is still fresh in Fire and Rescue Department operations senior officer Zulkifli Mohamad’s mind.
For the 53-year-old, it was a harrowing rescue operation as mangled bodies and body parts were strewn on the road.
“The bus was badly damaged. Bodies were found in a drain near a slope, on the road and within the wreckage.
“The scene was terrifying, ” said Zulkifli, who was the operations chief during the incident.
“My heart was pounding while we were on the way to the scene. And in my mind, I was already planning strategies for the search and rescue operation.
“Apart from thinking about rescuing victims, I also needed to ensure the safety of my colleagues, ” said Zulkifli, who was also involved in several other major search and rescue operations, including the Highland Towers incident in 1993.
The tragedy at KM15 Jalan Cameron Highlands-Simpang Pulai on Dec 20,2010 involved one of the highest-ever fatalities in recent years.
The high-decked bus, which was on its way to Kuala Lumpur from the popular highlands, skidded, hit a divider, overturned and smashed into a rocky slope.
The bus was carrying 37 people, of whom 27 died – 25 of them Thai nationals, while two others were Malaysians.
Zulkifli said he thanked God for every survivor they managed to rescue.
“We just kept going to look for more. We gave survivors immediate medical aid and continued with our search and rescue, ” he said.
For another senior officer, Supt II Ahmad Aminudin Abd Rahim, 40, it was his first experience in dealing with a major accident involving more than 20 victims.
“When we first received the distress call, the initial information was that an accident involving a bus with many passengers had happened.
“Upon arrival, it dawned on us the seriousness of the accident, ” said Aminudin, who was then with the Simpang Pulai fire station.
“For a brief moment, we were all stunned, looking at the grisly sight. There was great sadness among us due to the massive loss of lives, ” he said.
Aminudin, who currently supervises fire safety study at the state department’s northern region academy in Tronoh, said he remembered calling out to survivors who could still be trapped inside the wreckage.
“When we couldn’t hear anyone, we then focused on retrieving the bodies.
“It was not easy. There were clothes and bags scattered everywhere and we were unsure if there were body parts beneath.
“We did our best and handled the deceased with respect, ” he said.
Aminudin said that since the incident, he would feel his blood boiling whenever he saw bus drivers driving recklessly on highways.
“They are not aware of the lives they have in their hands. I sincerely hope these bus drivers will drive more carefully to avoid a similar tragedy, ” he said.