KOTA KINABALU: Johari Stephens, who was sitting in the co-pilot seat in the 1976 ill-fated Nomad crash that killed him, his father Tun Fuad Stephens and nine others, was just a passenger on the flight.
Fuad's family said that it was a well-known fact since the crash that Johari was sitting in the co-pilot seat among the 10 passengers on board.
"He (Johari) had been taking flying lessons but to say that he was flying the Nomad plane at the time of the crash or had taken charge of it in any way is purely speculation, nothing more.
"We have read many imaginative accounts of what might have happened but, to be clear, there is not a shred of evidence to support any of it.
"No one survived the crash to be able to tell us. To suggest otherwise is speculative, fantasy reporting aimed at pointing blame towards someone who can’t respond. Johari was there as a passenger," they said.
The family made the statement as some media had focused on Johari's presence in the co-pilot seat after it appeared in the just declassified Australian investigation reports on the Double Six crash.
"That he (Johari) sat next to the pilot in the Nomad aircraft is not a "revelation" as one news agency called it, the family said, adding that "he was a 24-year-old man with every expectation of a great life ahead."
Malaysian investigations had said that Capt Gandhi Nathan was commanding the flight when it stalled and nose-dived into the Sembulan Sea as the aircraft made its approach to the Kota Kinabalu Airport runway.
Johari had taken the seat from another pilot who had accompanied Nathan on the flight from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan earlier in the day.
The family said that the Nomad, like many small aircraft, did not require a co-pilot.
"The Nomad’s cockpit, while typically fitted with dual flight controls, is designed to be operated by a single pilot," they said.