Questions still linger over ‘Double Six’ tragedy, says Jeffrey Kitingan

Families of the Double Six victims, VIPs and other attendees paying their respects to those who perished at the memorial site in Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU: Questions on what really happened in the “Double Six” plane crash that killed former chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others will continue to linger in the minds of Sabahans, says Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

Marking the 47th anniversary of the fatal crash, the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister I said these questions on what had actually caused the Australian Nomad 9M-ATZ plane to go down would continue to be a mystery so long as many questions remained unanswered.

The declassified reports by Malaysian and Australian investigators, he said, had not given any definitive answers to the victims’ families and Sabahans in general.

Sadly, he said, there was no black box on the plane, which was usually a requirement for all aircraft.

“What happened to the black box, where is it?” he asked after joining the families in commemorating the incident at the crash site in Sembulan here on Tuesday (June 6).

“And although the investigation reports have been made public, many questions remain such as why, if there was no foul play, it took so long to release the reports, why keep it secret?

“That’s why it’s no surprise that people are still waiting for the answers, so don’t blame them for raising questions that remain unresolved,” Kitingan added.

Also present at the memorial ceremony were Deputy Chief Minister II Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam, assistant ministers Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Datuk Abidin Madingkir and Tan Lee Fatt, among others.

Both investigations by the Malaysian authorities and Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), the Australian manufacturer of the aircraft, had revealed that pilot error and overloading of the rear cargo compartment pointed to the reason why the plane stalled and nosedived into the Sembulan sea.

It crashed as it made its approach to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on June 6, 1976.

Towards this end, Kitingan said the state government will support the families of the victims if they wished to pursue more information over the incident.

“I think it’s entirely up to the family. The government will support what the family wants as long as it is the right thing to do,” he said.

The Transport Ministry made public the investigation report by Malaysian authorities on April 12, with the 20-page report stating there was no evidence of sabotage, fire or explosion which caused the crash.

The report also stated that there was no requirement for the aircraft to be equipped with a flight recorder and that none was fitted.

The Australian report was released on April 26, and while it mostly tallies with Malaysia’s report, it also said that poor operation by Sabah Air and a failure on the part of the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) to completely fulfil their obligations as the local certification authority were among the factors contributing to the crash.

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