125-Day Search Operations For Ill-Fated Catamaran Victims Ended Friday

Some of the China tourists who were plucked out of the sea by fishermen a day after their boat capsized while on its way to Pulau Mengalum. – File photo

KOTA KINABALU: The search operation for five people, four of them tourists from China, unaccounted for from the January 28 catamaran tragedy has officially ended on Friday.

The missing four Chinese tourists are Shen Joang Jian, 50, Dong Mei, 50, Luo Hong Yuan, 51, and Yu Xuan Li, 10.

ABSOY KASSIM

The fifth person still missing is a local boatman identified as Absoy Kasim, 26.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah and Labuan regional director First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som said the decision to cease the search operation, dubbed ‘Ops Mengalum’, was made after thorough discussions with the agency’s top leadership.

“There were no positive results in our search for the remaining five people. After taking into all considerations, MMEA decided to cease operations,” he said at a press conference.

Thirty-one people were involved in the tragedy when their boat sank not long after departing from an illegal jetty from Tanjung Aru near here. They were headed for a day-long trip to Pulau Mengalum.

Twenty of the Chinese nationals survived their 32-hour ordeal at sea while four Chinese tourists – three women and a man – died.

Following the Chinese New Year day tragedy, search efforts began immediately after the company operating the vessel with 28 tourists on board reported the mishap to the authorities, 12 hours after the incident.

Most were rescued the next day.

Two of the crewmen including a guide who swam away from the group after the incident managed to find help.

The search operation involving some 48 assets including the MMEA, air force, navy, marine police and the Brunei air force, scoured a total of 142,390 sq nautical miles.

Mohd Zubil said the MMEA will, however, still be on the lookout for any signs of the missing victims when patrolling at sea.