Mecca bus accident

We thought bus was going to explode, says pilgrim

Left: Madam Hasimah Idris, 58, one of the returning pilgrims, being attended to on her arrival at Changi Airport yesterday. Below: Mr Arman Mohamed Hassan, 58, nursing his injured hand. He was among the survivors of the bus crash in Mecca last Tuesda
Madam Hasimah Idris, 58, one of the returning pilgrims, being attended to on her arrival at Changi Airport yesterday.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Left: Madam Hasimah Idris, 58, one of the returning pilgrims, being attended to on her arrival at Changi Airport yesterday. Below: Mr Arman Mohamed Hassan, 58, nursing his injured hand. He was among the survivors of the bus crash in Mecca last Tuesda
Mr Arman Mohamed Hassan, 58, nursing his injured hand. He was among the survivors of the bus crash in Mecca last Tuesday.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

Survivors return home, tell of harrowing experience; 3 still in hospital in Saudi Arabia

In the chaotic moments after the tour bus she was in collided with a trailer truck, student Siti Shuhaidah Salleh, 21, feared the worst.

"Both the front and back door of the bus were stuck, the air smelled of petrol. All of us were afraid the bus was going to explode, people were screaming," she said, adding that most of the passengers had been sleeping at the time of the accident.

Eventually, someone managed to force a way out via the luggage compartment near the back door. The injured and immobile were carried out through the small gap.

"I was just relieved all of us got out of the bus safely, " she said.

Ms Siti Shuhaidah was one of 31 Muslim pilgrims on the bus involved in the fatal accident in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, last Tuesday.

Haji Mohammad Abu Bakar Osman, 64, director of Abu Bakar Travel Services, the family-run travel agency behind the trip, was killed in the crash.

Mr Dian Iskandar, 47, in an emotional moment with his mother Rosonjan Aziz Khan, 68, at Changi Airport, on her safe return from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. She is the sister-in-law of Haji Mohammad Abu Bakar Osman, 64, who died in a bus acci
Pilgrims back home from Mecca after accident: Mr Dian Iskandar, 47, in an emotional moment with his mother Rosonjan Aziz Khan, 68, at Changi Airport, on her safe return from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. She is the sister-in-law of Haji Mohammad Abu Bakar Osman, 64, who died in a bus accident during the trip. With them at the airport was Mr Abu Bakar's sister Aina Osman (right), 68. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

There were emotional scenes at Terminal 2 in Changi Airport as 29 of the pilgrims returned yesterday afternoon. More than 50 relatives and friends at the airport greeted them with tearful hugs.

Hajah Fauziah Alias, 63 - Mr Abu Bakar's wife - and two other pilgrims are still hospitalised in Saudi Arabia.

The group of 33 had arrived in Mecca on March 12 for an umrah, or minor pilgrimage. Two of them stayed in the hotel while the restwere headed to Taif, a city about 1½ hours away from their hotel, when the accident happened.

Mr Abu Bakar's nephew Muhd Dion Khudairi Mohamed Ali said his uncle planned Taif as a surprise destination on the itinerary. He believes the trailer was making an illegal U-turn on the two-lane highway when the bus collided with it.

There was a scramble to get everyone clear of the bus, said Mr Muhd Dion Khudairi, 46, who had to limp to do so as he was hurt in the crash.

Ms Siti Shuhaidah's first instinct after the crash was to look for her family - and she realised her 74-year-old grandfather and sister had been flung to the front of the bus. They both had minor injuries.

Her uncle, 46, had the most severe injury of her six relatives on the trip with a dislocated hip. She escaped with minor injuries herself, including a cut on her chin.

It was when the pilgrims were safely at the side of the road and checking on one another that they realised their tour leader was not among them. "Paramedics brought his body out, covered in a white cloth, about half an hour later," she said, adding that the pilgrims were crying quietly and saying prayers as they filed past the body.

Mr Abu Bakar's sister Aina Osman, 68, was clearly emotional as she spoke about her brother yesterday. "I'm just imagining he is one of those coming back... it feels like he is still on umrah."

Mr Adam Noor, 59, who was there to receive his wife Norsimah, 56, said he had been having sleepless nights since he found out about the accident.

He said, before she arrived at the airport: "I keep thinking of her safety, even on the flight back. I hope they touch down safely."

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who was at the airport to greet the pilgrims, said that agencies like the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are helping the families affected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2018, with the headline 'We thought bus was going to explode, says pilgrim'. Print Edition | Subscribe