KEMAMAN (NST): Lance Corporal Kamrol Akmal Othman’s blood froze when he saw the bluish tinge in the skin of the 4-year-old boy as he lay motionless in his arms.He feared the worst as his thoughts went to his own child, who is about the same age as this youngest passenger of the boat which capsized off Pulau Tenggol on Saturday.
“His body was cold and his eyes closed. I heaved a sigh of relief when he finally opened his eyes as I was about to put him down on the patrol boat’s deck,” he said.
Kamrol was part of the five crewmen of Marine Operations Force patrol boat PA2 which spotted and rescued the passengers 32km to the south of Pulau Tenggol on Sunday.
PA2 commander Sergeant Major Mansor Rapingi spotted them after almost four hours of scouring the sea around the island.
Mansor said the search-and-rescue effort was focused on the southern side as the water current was in that direction.
“We estimated that the passengers would have drifted about 20km to the south after 10 hours. We were proven right as I spotted their orange life jackets at 9.45am.”
Mansor put his 29 years’ of experience to good use when the crew managed to pull all 16 passengers aboard in just 15 minutes, although the sea was quite rough at the time.
“We had to wait for the right moment before pulling them one by one onto the platform at the patrol boat’s stern.
“When the waves made the platform dip into the water, we would pull one passenger on board,” he said.
They started to haul the passengers on board at 9.55am and they were all aboard by 10.11am.
“Some of the passengers were so weak that they had to crawl, sobbing and shedding tears of joy at being rescued after such a harrowing ordeal,” said Mansor.
Once aboard, the two doctors among the passengers took charge to ensure the weakest of them were given proper attention.
Dr Anis Shafina Mahfudz from University Malaya Medical Centre and Dr Norazimimah Abdullah from Selayang Hospital, both 29, were less affected as they still had their wet suits on when the mishap occurred.
Dr Anis said their lives were saved because they had all worn life jackets.
“It would have been a totally different story if any of us had not worn a life jacket.”
She said it was easy for her and Dr Norazimimah to handle the situation as they understood each other very well although they had no formal training to handle such emergency situations.
“We were schoolmates in SM Seri Puteri and had taken up scuba diving together,” she said.
Despite their ordeal, Dr Anis said her fellow passengers only suffered from dehydration and hypothermia.
Only four of them were warded at Kemaman Hospital on Sunday while the others received outpatient treatment. The four were discharged yesterday morning.
By Satiman Jamin