Tragedy of Muar bus crash unfolds before family and loved ones

Mr Yusof Sabda, 54, a businessman and cousin of Hamimah Mammu, speaking to the media. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives of Au Poi Kiew place her body into a hearse at the mortuary. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives of Au Poi Kiew carry her body at the mortuary. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Sons of Hamimah Mammu, Muhd Haikal Syed, (right) 23, and Muhd Shamir Syed, (wiping his eyes) 21, leave after seeing her body. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Hamimah Mammu's body is placed in the hearse. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives of Hamimah Mammu react after her body is placed in the hearse. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives of Hamimah Mammu react after her body is placed in the hearse. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

MUAR - The true extent of Saturday's (Dec 24) twilight bus crash at the North-South Expressway - which killed three Singaporeans and one Singapore permanent resident - unfolded through the night outside of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist hospital in Muar.

Families of the 14 dead and 16 injured kept a stoic vigil, either mourning quietly for relatives lost, or praying that others pull through, with some victims critically injured. For some, it was both.

As of Sunday morning, all six Singaporeans injured in the crash had been discharged from the hospital and sent back to Singapore.

One Singapore family lost a mother and daughter. Madam Faridah Tamron and her daughter Hazimah Mustafa were both killed. Madam Faridah's husband Mustafa Yasin, 63,as well as Ms Hazimah's husband Muhammad Fitri, are among those injured. Mr Mustafa had fractures, while Mr Fitri broke an arm and fractured a leg.

The third Singaporean who died was Madam Hamimah Mammu. Her husband Mohamed Syed, 16-year-old son Muhammad Hilmi, and daughter Alifah,13, were injured. Mr Syed fractured his leg, while Hilmi suffered spinal injuries, a fractured leg and a dislocated arm.

The couple have two other sons, aged 21 and 23, who did not accompany them but were at the hospital's mortuary on Saturday evening. The younger son, Institute of Technical Education student Muhd Shamir Syed, was seen wiping his eye as he walked out of the mortuary. The two sons were too distraught to comment on the accident.

Madam Hamimah's cousin from from Kota Tinggi, businessman Yusof Sabda, 54, who was at the Muar hospital, told The Straits Times how he had just met her during a wedding in Simei in Singapore the week before and visited her home in Pasir Ris.

Madam Hamimah had been on the way to Kuala Lumpur to shop in the Masjid India district, he added. Her two other children and siblings, two older sisters and an older brother, had headed up from Singapore earlier.

"We were very close. I'm sad this happened," said Mr Yusof of his relationship with Madam Hamimah. He said that he would be heading to Singapore for her burial.

Mr Yusof added that Madam Hamimah's mother, who lives in Singapore, had not yet been told of her death. "We are worried about how she might react," he said.

There was a sombre mood as Madam Hamimah's body left the hospital at 12.40am on Sunday. Her relatives were seen sobbing and hugging one another as her body was loaded up a hearse headed for Singapore.

Her sister, Madam Rahimah Mammu, said her sibling's husband would be transferred to Singapore General Hospital on Saturday night, while her two injured children will be taken to KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

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The fourth victim from Singapore who died in the crash is permanent resident Au Poi Kiew, who hailed from Seremban.

President Tony Tan, in a Facebook post on Saturday evening, said he and his wife Mary were deeply saddened by the crash and that their thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected.

"The accident was especially tragic given that it happened on Christmas Eve, and many of those affected were on their way to celebrate the festive season with their loved ones in Kuala Lumpur," Dr Tan wrote.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said he was "deeply shocked and saddened by the accident, calling it a "year-end outing that turned tragic".

He wrote on Facebook: "Particularly poignant during this festive season. My heart goes out to the bereaved families and those who have been injured."

The accident took place at Kampung Jayo, Jalan Kangkar-Senangar, Pagoh near Muar at around 4am. The Alisan Golden Coach bus involved had departed from JB Sentral in Johor Baru and had been en route to Kuala Lumpur's Bandar Tasik Selatan Integrated Bus Terminal.

Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission said it had suspended the licence of the operator of the bus in the crash, Goldstar Express (M) Sdn Bhd, with immediate effect to facilitate investigations into the crash, the New Straits Times (NST) reported.

Mr Steven Chong, 52, a Goldstar Express representative, said his company would help the families with the costs of bringing back home the bodies of those killed in the crash, as well as help with insurance claims.

But he could not confirm whether the bus company would be providing any other compensation to the families of the crash victims.

The dead also included nine Malaysians and one Indian. One of them was an infant, later revealed to be the baby daughter of the bus driver, who also died. The driver had brought along his daughter and wife on the trip, without the knowledge of the bus firm. Malaysia's Harian Metro newspaper said the bus driver had only joined a month ago.

Among the injured were also seven Malaysians, two from Myanmar and one person whose nationality had yet to be verified, The Star reported.

A spokesman from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it was "saddened by the tragic bus accident".

"The Singapore Consulate-General in Johor Baru is in close contact with the Johor authorities," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday. "Our Consul-General and MFA officers are at the hospital in Muar to assist affected Singaporeans and their next-of-kin."

A team of 25 firemen from the Johor Fire and Rescue Department were deployed to the accident site after receiving a distress call at around 4am, The Star reported.

The department's deputy director Mohd Yusof Mohd Gunnos was quoted by The Star as saying that initial investigations showed the road surface was in good condition and it was not raining when the incident happened.

Muar police chief Azman Ayob said the bus had been travelling at a high speed during the incident and the bus driver had lost control of the vehicle before it plunged into the ravine.

Muar police said the investigation into the incident was still ongoing.

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