'Double Six' plane crash: Declassified report did not provide answers, say victims’ families

KOTA KINABALU: Families of the victims of Sabah's "Double Six" tragedy are still seeking answers to what happened on June 6, 1976, even though the Malaysian government had declassified the crash report on Wednesday (April 12).

The report, which was kept classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for 47 years, rules out any sabotage and puts the blame mainly on pilot error as well as unbalanced cargo loading of the aircraft and poor Sabah Air management practices.

For the families, the declassified report did not provide answers they wanted for proper closure.

They said more details were needed as the report failed to give a clear narrative of what happened to the Sabah Air Nomad N22B 9M-ATZ flight that crashed into the Sembulan Sea on approach to land at Kota Kinabalu airport.

Eleven people were killed in the crash, including then-Sabah chief minister Tun Mohd Fuad Stephens.

Now, families of the victims are looking to Australia to release more documents and reports on the crash which remain locked up in Australian National Archives.

After four decades since the incident, those involved in the investigation then may not be around much longer to give them a better picture of the findings.

Fuad's daughter Faridah said she is pleading to the Australian government to release documents related to the crash which have been stashed away and hidden from public view.

She said that there were some people - such as the pilot - and organisations negatively mentioned in the Malaysian investigation report.

"We feel that we won't get a complete picture of the cause of the crash unless we see all the reports from Australia.

"There are reports on the Nomad plane stashed away in the Australian Ministry of Defence, reports from the government aircraft factory reports (who manufactured the plane) and the many folios in the Australian archives hidden from public view.

"We need to push for the release of all these documents," she said on behalf of the families of victims.

Faridah, like other families of the victims, was puzzled why the crash report was not released immediately back then and declared as classified under the OSA.

Apart from Fuad, the others killed were state ministers Datuk Peter Mojuntin and Chong Thien Vun, Finance Minister Datuk Salleh Sulong, assistant minister Datuk Darius Binion, Sabah Finance Ministry permanent secretary Datuk Wahid Peter Andu, Isak Atan (private secretary to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was then finance minister), Kpl Said Mohammad (bodyguard to Fuad), pilot Capt Gandhi J. Nathan and Fuad's eldest son Johari Stephens.

Mojuntin's widow, Datin Nancy Mobijohn, 77, said she remains sceptical of getting any answers.

She said the revelation that it was due to "pilot error and overloading" was similar to what they were told verbally in the months after the crash.

"I think it is just a big gimmick to make us happy," Mobijohn told reporters on Thursday (April 13).

The seven-member then-Civil Aviation Department (DCA) investigation team was led by chief investigator Omar Saman and included two officials from the Australian Department of Transport.

The team was also assisted by two officials from the Namad manufacturer - Government Aircraft Factories Australia.

The official air crash accident report was signed by Omar on Jan 27, 1977.

According to previous reports, the Malaysian government classified the report under the OSA and requested Australia not to release the report.

Current officials are unable to explain why the report was kept under wraps at the time.

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