Fatal fall 'could have been due to weather'

Friends and family attending the wake of Mr Woon, 36, yesterday. He died after falling while descending Mount Kinabalu from the summit. Reaching the top of the mountain was a goal of his, said a close friend.
Friends and family attending the wake of Mr Woon, 36, yesterday. He died after falling while descending Mount Kinabalu from the summit. Reaching the top of the mountain was a goal of his, said a close friend.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The Singaporean who died after falling some 150m while descending Sabah's Mount Kinabalu last Saturday yearned to reach the summit.

Mr Woon Tai Kiang, 36, had started his climb at around 7am on Saturday and reached the summit around 2.40pm the same day, said close friend Amy Khor, a finance manager in her 40s. He probably got to the accident area on his way down at about 3pm to 4pm, she said.

His body was found around 7.30am on Sunday in a ravine near Sayat-Sayat, the last checkpoint about 3,700m above sea level before the summit. He was supposed to return to Singapore that day.

"In a way, I'm happy that he did what he liked and fulfilled his wish," said Ms Khor, who flew to Sabah to identify his body upon learning of his mishap. She was later joined by his elder brother, Mr Desmond Woon, 41.

"When he sets his mind to do something, he will do it," she said of her friend, a former executive at Singapore National Employers Federation. He had been training alone for the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon on Oct 16 when he fell.

She learnt from other hikers that it had started to drizzle that day and the path could have been slippery.

"Many experienced climbers and hikers told me that it could have been the weather. It's very foggy in the afternoon," said Ms Khor. Usually, climbers are encouraged to descend from the summit by 11am.

"Sayat-Sayat is pretty steep. He could have... tripped and fallen. But nobody was with him."

Ranau police chief Mohd Farhan Lee Abdullah told The Straits Times that while the official report is not out, Mr Woon suffered serious injuries to his head. He had fractures to his arms and legs as well.

Police added that Mr Woon could have moved too quickly when making a turn, leading to his fall.

But Mr Woon had been cheerful on the climb and did not appear to be suffering from health conditions, Ms Khor learnt.

A serious runner, he had encouraged her to join ultramarathons. In August, they completed a 32km race in Switzerland.

"His pace was definitely faster than mine, but he would always be there waiting for me at the finish line," she said.

Mr Woon will be cremated tomorrow. Tonight, his friends from the ultra-running community will pay their respects to him at his wake in Bedok North, in memorial T-shirts, which were sold among them. Proceeds will go towards assisting his family.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Fatal fall 'could have been due to weather''. Print Edition | Subscribe