Malaysian Deputy Minister's body found near crash site

An Instagram photo (above) of Ms Noriah and her husband, Mr Asmuni. (Left) Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department personnel handling what they believe to be part of the helicopter that crashed in the jungle on Thursday.
Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department personnel handling what they believe to be part of the helicopter that crashed in the jungle on Thursday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Search goes on in Sarawak jungle for her husband, 3 other passengers and pilot

The body of a woman deputy Cabinet minister was found near the site where her helicopter crashed on Thursday in the Sarawak jungle as it was returning from a campaign stop at the tail end of the state elections.

After finding the remains of Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Noriah Kasnon, civil defence officials were yesterday scouring the area for the other four passengers, including her husband, and the pilot.

The crash was a big jolt for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which is expecting a strong win in its stronghold state.

BN's campaign is led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was camped in Sarawak during the 12-day campaigning period that ended yesterday. Sarawak's 1.14 million voters cast their ballots today, with the results expected to trickle in this evening.

"I'm now at IPK Sarawak to receive the body of my sister, YB Noriah, who is the first victim of the helicopter accident," said Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim on Facebook, referring to the Sarawak contingent police headquarters.

An Instagram photo (above) of Ms Noriah and her husband, Mr Asmuni. (Left) Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department personnel handling what they believe to be part of the helicopter that crashed in the jungle on Thursday.
An Instagram photo (above) of Ms Noriah and her husband, Mr Asmuni. PHOTO: DATUK NORIAH KASNON/INSTAGRAM

Datuk Rohani, the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, is not related to Datuk Noriah.

The helicopter went missing at around 4.30pm on Thursday on its way to the Sarawak capital of Kuching from Betong, a small town in an eastern corner of Malaysia's largest state. No distress call was received and there were four other helicopters in the vicinity.

The helicopter went missing at around 4.30pm on Thursday on its way to the Sarawak capital of Kuching from Betong, a small town in an eastern corner of Malaysia's largest state. No distress call was received and there were four other helicopters in the vicinity.

With its deep jungles and tall mountains, helicopters are often used to reach remote communities.

Datuk Noriah, 52, an MP from Selangor, went to Sarawak on Wednesday to help in the campaigning. With her in the ill-fated helicopter were her husband, Mr Asmuni Abdullah, and her ministry's secretary-general, Dr Sundaran Annamalai. The others were a Perak MP, her personal bodyguard and pilot Rudolf Rex Ragas.

A constituent of Ms Noriah's told The Star daily of a Facebook conversation the two had several days ago.

"Where are you flying off to, Datuk?" the voter asked. Ms Noriah replied: "To the clouds."

Datuk Seri Najib said at yesterday's briefing that authorities could not conclude that all aboard had died as the search for them is ongoing.

Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek was supposed to board the doomed helicopter, but he boarded another at the last moment instead, local media reported.

"The weather was rough on the way to Kuching and we arrived 40 minutes later," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Deputy minister's body found near crash site'. Print Edition | Subscribe