Sabah quake: Faces of the tragedy and their profiles

SINGAPORE - Monday, June 8, was declared a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Sabah earthquake.

Six pupils and one teacher from Tanjong Katong Primary School died and their bodies were flown back over the weekend. The Singaporean adventure guide who was with them on a school field trip also died.

The bodies of the remaining missing pupil and teacher were found on Wednesday (June 10), bringing the total death toll to 10. The Straits Times pieces together what the victims were like.


Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan

A love for shooting hoops, Rachel had a passion for netball and had dreamed of becoming part of the national netball team one day.

The 12-year-old had played for the school's team for the past three years.

She would practise every day - sometimes even during her recess period in school.

Just days before the trip, she had gone to watch the June 1 Singapore-Thailand netball match at the ongoing South-east Asian Games.

She had wanted to be a banker, a lawyer or a dentist, said her father James Ho, 45.

She was good with her hands and liked to make rubber-band bracelets with loom bands, paint her nails and make clay models.

She was also very close to her parents and would often ask to sleep in their room. She had a habit of holding her father's hand, hugging and kissing him every night before she fell asleep. - MIRANDA YEO

Loo Jian Liang Terrence Sebastian 

Teacher Terrence Loo was a filial son and hard-working man, said his neighbour Shirley Wee, who had known the 29-year-old since he was a child.

Ms Wee, a 60-year-old sales assistant, lived in the same Marine Parade block of flats as Mr Loo's family for more than two decades, before Mr Loo's family moved a few blocks away.

"I watched him grow up and I would spend time chatting with him and his mum at our void deck in the evening," said Ms Wee, who was at his wake yesterday.

She said Mr Loo was a gentle man who was very close to his mother. He had an older sister and a girlfriend, added Ms Wee, who often saw him walking his dog around the neighbourhood. 

Mr Loo's dream was to set up a tuition centre, according to a eulogy posted by Gloria Lee on Facebook. Ms Lee, who referred to Mr Loo as her "best friend", said he loved his family.

She wrote: "He knew he had to work hard because his parents were getting old, and his dream was to set up a tuition centre so his father could retire for good.

"He thought the world of his mother and sister, and often boasted that his mother was the best cook in the world."

The 29-year-old National University of Singapore alumnus was an animal lover who had turtles and a dog called Bella, which Mr Loo was "inordinately proud of (and perhaps a little obsessed)," she wrote.

To her, Mr Loo was a "simple guy who could travel the world with his signature singlet and waist pouch".

The caring, kind, generous teacher was raising funds for a riding event organised by Club Rainbow (Singapore).

Ms Lee has urged for the fundraising activity to carry on so as to "fulfil his last wish". - CHITRA KUMAR, MIRANDA YEO

Muhammad Daanish Amran

Camp instructor Muhammad Daanish Amran was full of energy.

The 22-year-old was an active and outgoing person, his friends and family told media.

His uncle remembers Mr Daanish - the eldest of three siblings - as a kind man who helped carry the luggage when they went on family trips.

Mr Daanish, who had worked at the Battlestar Galactica ride at Universal Studios Singapore, was a guide at Camp Challenge, which ran the Mount Kinabalu trip.

Colleagues posted on Camp Challenge Facebook page that he "was an outstanding young man, a dedicated instructor and a cherished friend to many including our family of instructors".

"He was really passionate about being a camp instructor and, as friends, we could see positive changes in him. He became more organised and serious in life," said his close friend Mohammed Jaffer Ashiddiqe Jamal, 22, who took leave from national service to attend the funeral.

Mr Daanish helped to guide Mr Jaffer's younger siblings when they were applying to be camp instructors as well, he said, adding: "He was really approachable.

"He always had a ready grin and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. His presence alone brightened up the day for the class," wrote Mr Daanish's secondary school classmate Liu Yaling on his Facebook page. - JOANNA SEOW, AW CHENG WEI, JANICE TAI AND CHITRA KUMAR

Peony Wee Ying Ping

A foodie and sports lover, family members and friends described 12-year-old Peony Wee as a cheerful girl who frequently helped out at her mother's traditional Chinese medicine clinic.

Peony's father, Mr Alson Wee, told the media that his daughter was a sociable, active girl who played netball and the piano, read widely and loved wanton noodles.

Mr Wee also added that Peony would sometimes call home after netball practice and offer to buy food for her family.

If her grades were not good, she would say the silver lining was that she had passed, said her brother Chester, 14. 

- KOK XING HUI AND YEO SAM JO

Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay 

Ameer Ryyan, 12, was a young and passionate football fan. His Facebook profile is plastered with pictures of his favourite football stars.

Not only did he support teams like FC Barcelona and Manchester United, but he was also a member of the Tanjong Katong Primary School football club, and had attended Fandi Ahmad's F-17 Academy for young players.

The local football icon said on Facebook: "When news broke that he was one of those who lost their lives, I was devastated. I had really hoped to witness Ameer Ryyan's rise in football.

"He had all the right ingredients, a good attitude, fitness, discipline, skills and parents who loved him dearly and really supported his dreams."

His coach, former national player Steven Tan, remembered Ameer for his caring nature and sense of humour, and compared him to S-League midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman in a post on Facebook. "He was a good kid and I will miss him dearly. Being a father myself, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them. My heart goes out to his family," he added.

Mr Tan added that Ameer Ryyan was "one of my bright stars in the elite squad

"Ryyan had flair in his game & loved curling his free-kicks... he was technically good with both feet and played the game with intelligence."

Among the friends who remembered him for his prowess on the field was Andre Aide Iskandar, 14, whose father is also a football coach for the Young Lions Under-23 team.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) student had met Ameer when the latter was in Primary 1.

Impressed by his skill and positive attitude, Andre scouted him for the school football team. "I will always remember how well he played for the school and F-17. He always did his best to bring glory to the team," said Andre.

"I have lost a good friend who was like a little brother to me." - CHITRA KUMAR, REI KUROHI

Emilie Giovanna Ramu

Emilie Giovanna Ramu, 12, and Natasha Poon, 11, shared a close bond despite being in different levels in school.

So when Natasha found out her Primary 6 friend Emilie was among those killed on Mount Kinabalu, her heart broke.

"Emilie and I, we treated each other like sisters. When I'm sad, she would comfort me," said Natasha, a Primary 5 pupil at Tanjong Katong Primary School.

She added that whenever she was bullied, Emilie would buy her food and comfort her. "I still remember the times we spent laughing in the canteen. We would play games like truth or dare on the weekends," she said.

Other pupils said Emilie was caring and nice to everyone. "She was in my project group," said Primary 6 pupil Muhammad Shafiq Aiman, 12. "She was very nice. It's hard to imagine something like this could happen to her."

Emilie was also a budding ballet dancer who intended to perform at a ballet recital this weekend, said Shin Min Daily News.

Emilie's friends told The Straits Times she would never be forgotten. A tearful Natasha said: "You will forever be in my heart." - DANSON CHEONG

Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit

For two years, Matahom Karyl repeatedly asked her parents to allow her to go for her school's Mount Kinabalu expedition with her friends.

"She really, really wanted to join them on this hiking activity," said her father, Mr Carlito Matahom. "She'd been asking for two years already. That's why we allowed her to go on this trip. We wanted her to be happy."

The expedition was Karyl's first trip abroad without her family. The 12-year-old loved sports and was on her school's netball and floorball team. She was also the vice-president of the student leaders council.

Karyl was close to her family and would often initiate family outings. "She was a kind girl, and very sweet, not only to her family but also to her friends and church members," said Mr Matahom at her wake at Singapore Casket in Lavender Street.

"When we first heard about the earthquake, we took it lightly because we didn't know the details of what happened. It was when we heard there were missing pupils and teachers that we started to panic. We felt a long agony during the period they were looking for her," he said.

Schoolmate Muhammad Shafiq Aiman, 12, who spoke to The Straits Times, said he remembered her kindness.

"Even though I wasn't that close to her, she went out of her way to help me search for a paper I thought I had lost in the classroom. When I realised I had actually handed the paper in, she didn't even get mad at me for wasting her time. She was really kind-hearted and caring," he said. - GILANE NG

Sonia Jhala

Sonia Jhala, 12, had been looking forward to her trip to Mount Kinabalu since she was in Primary 4.

Sonia's sister, Ms Karishma Jhala, 18, told Shin Min Daily News that she was a netball player and an adventurous girl who worked hard to be selected for the trip. - REI KUROHI

Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed

At school, he is more like a friend than a teacher, and a role model for his pupils.

At home, he is a responsible father of three young children, with the youngest just a year old.

Mr Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, a physical education teacher at Tanjong Katong Primary School, is one of two Singaporeans still missing since an earthquake hit Sabah last Friday.

Several current and former pupils took to social media to share their fond memories of Mr Ghazi.

Posting a group photo taken during a previous trip to Mount Kinabalu, one former pupil wrote on Instagram: "I remember I was one of the slowest in our group, but you always stayed behind me and asked if everyone was fine."

Another former pupil wrote about how he was not particularly good in hockey, but was still invited by Mr Ghazi to join the school hockey team in 2010 and given opportunities to improve.

He wrote: "You never gave up (on me). There were always chances given to me to reach higher...

"We meet every year, soon it's time for our annual meet again. Come back soon and let's revive all those memories."

Mr Ghazi, an avid football fan, is also well known as the teacher who would spend time after school every Friday to play football with pupils.

Georgia Jackson, 11, who was taught by Mr Ghazi last year, told The Straits Times: "He had a great sense of humour. He often made all of us laugh."

He is known for teaching his pupils important life values.

Former pupil Anam Devid wrote on Mr Ghazi's Facebook page: "He showed us clearly about teamwork, perseverance and respect... He did not make us respect him just because he is our teacher. He earned our respect."

Like his late father, Mr Ghazi is passionate about teaching and previously taught at ITE College East, reported Chinese evening paper Lianhe Wanbao.

His wife is a teacher at East View Secondary School.

In a school publication, Mr Ghazi wrote: "Leave no one behind. Never turn the blind eye." - PRISCILLA GOY, CHITRA KUMAR

Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar

Two years ago, Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar's father died and now the 13-year-old is one of the two Singaporeans still missing after the earthquake in Sabah.

His elder sister posted on Twitter last Saturday to say that she is praying for a miracle and wondered how their mother would cope if the worst-case scenario comes true.

That day, Navdeep's mother also uploaded a new profile picture of herself and her son, both dressed in Indian traditional costumes. She also changed her cover photo on Facebook, to one of her son eating a snack.

Several friends and relatives posted messages on her Facebook page, encouraging her to "stay strong" and "have faith". Many added that they were praying for him and his family.

Her friends described Navdeep as being cute and handsome.

Navdeep's uncle told Chinese evening paper Lianhe Wanbao that the boy's mother and sister had flown to Sabah and were waiting there for news.

The whole family is upset, he added.

Meanwhile, friends continued to encourage Navdeep's sister.

One of them wrote on Twitter: "Just close your eyes and think of every sweetest moment you both had... And I believe, he doesn't want to see you in this manner." - PRISCILLA GOY 

 Full coverage here