KOTA KINABALU: As families and leaders marked the Double Six anniversary – the first following the release of the declassified reports on the crash that killed former chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others – questions remain on what really happened that fateful day 47 years ago.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said questions on what had caused the Australian Nomad 9M-ATZ plane to go down would continue to be a mystery as long as they remained unanswered.
The declassified reports by Malaysian and Australian investigators released only recently had not given any definitive answers to the victims’ families and Sabahans in general, he said.
He added that there was no black box on the plane, which was usually a requirement for all aircraft.
“Although the investigation reports have been made public, many questions remain, such as why it took so long to release the reports, if there was no foul play.
“Don’t blame people for raising questions that remain unresolved,” Kitingan said after joining the families in commemorating the 47th anniversary of the incident at the crash site in Sembulan here yesterday.
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.
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Both investigations by the Malaysian authorities and Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), the Australian manufacturer of the aircraft, had pointed at pilot error and overloading of the rear cargo compartment, causing the plane to stall and nosedive into the Sembulan sea.
GAF also said there was no fault in the Nomad aircraft.
The plane crashed as it made its approach to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on June 6, 1976.
Towards this end, Kitingan said the state government would support the victims’ families if they wished to pursue more information on the incident.
The Transport Ministry made the findings by the Malaysian authorities public on April 12, with the 20-page report stating that there was no evidence of sabotage, fire or explosion that led to the crash.
The report also said that there was no requirement for the aircraft to be equipped with a flight recorder and that none was fitted on it.
Two weeks after, the Australian report was released on April 26, and while it mostly tallied with Malaysia’s report, it also said that poor operation by Sabah Air and a failure on the Civil Aviation Department’s part to completely fulfil its obligations as the local certification authority were among the factors that contributed to the crash.