1976 Sabah Air GAF Nomad Crash (Double Six Tragedy)

Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.37.40

On 6 June 1676, a GAF N-22B Nomad plane crashed while on approach to Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI). The accident has killed everyone onboard the aircraft, including some prominent public figures in Malaysia as well Sabah. It is now popularly known as “Double Six Tragedy”, named after the date of the accident.

Tun Fuad Stephens, Chief Minister of Sabah at that time was inside the aircraft. He has just been appointed as the Sabah Chief Minister for 53 days on that day. There were no survivors in the crash.


Passengers

10 passengers together with 1 pilot died during the crash. Their names are listed below:

  1. Captain Ghandi Nathan, pilot and captain of the aircraft
  2. Corporal Said, bodyguard of Tun Fuad
  3. Chong Thien Voon, Sabah Works and Communication Minister
  4. Darius Binion, Assistant Minister
  5. Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Sabah Minister of Local Government and Housing
  6. Datuk Salleh Sulong, Sabah Finance Minister
  7. Datuk Wahid Andu
  8. Dr. Syed Hussin Wafa, Director of State Economic Planning Unit
  9. Johari Stephens, trainee pilot with Sabah Flying Club
  10. Tun Fuad Stephens, Chief Minister of Sabah at that time
  11. Datuk Ishak Atan, private secretary to Tengku Razaleigh (Malaysian Finance Minister at that time)

The Aircraft

The aircraft is GAF Nomad N.22B, 13-passenger civil version of the GAF Nomad. It is registered to Sabah Air, with registration number 9M-ATZ.

There is no Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) or Flight Data Recorder (FDR) recovered from the crash. It is because the aircraft was not equipped with a black box to record flight events.

The aircraft carried heavy cargo from Labuan such as golf equipments as well as colored television sets.

The Crash

The aircraft is supposed to be operated by two pilots. However, Johari Stephens, a trainee pilot at that time, asked for sit at the co-pilot seat. His request was granted.

The aircraft was supposed to land at Kota Kinabalu at 3:30 PM and the weather at the airport was fine at that time. The aircraft circled and approached the airport from the north. At 3:40 PM, the aircraft was about 600 feet from sea level, flying at 86 knots and approaching the runway from the north. Locals said the plane seemed to stall, with one wing dipped down and the plane spiralled down. The aircraft completed one and a half turn before it hit the shallow water in Kampung Sembulan. There was some indication that the pilot tried to recover but he had no chance.

Reports later revealed that the aircraft was supposed to approach the airport runway from the south. Unfortunately, it was asked to go past the airport to give way to a MAS aircraft and land from the north instead. There were claims that conflicting instructions happened at ground control. The reports were later denied.

The crash site as about 50 feet from the nearest houses in Kampung Sembulan, which is about five minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. Fortunately, it did not hit anyone in the village. Otherwise, the casualty rate would have been greater. The aircraft had struck hard in water barely three feet deep.

The time of impact is 3:41:27 PM, which was what recorded by a clock that stopped at the moment of impact. Eyewitnesses at Kampung Sembulan Baru reported that they heard an explosion at about 3:30 PM.

Immediate reaction

Firemen were the first to arrive at the scene. Policemen arrived later and sealed the area. The aircraft was in a total wreck and the access to the interior became difficult. Ben Stephens, Tun Fuad’s brother and Police Commissioner Yusof Khan were among the first to arrive at the scene. Then, the Police Commissioner cut open the aircraft.

The harsh impact has caused the bodies to converge near the cockpit, except for the one who was still strapped on his safety belt. The authorities then managed to remove all 11 bodies from the aircraft. All of the bodies were mutilated beyond recognition except for Peter Mojuntin’s, whose face can still be recognised. Corporal Said, Tun Fuad’s bodyguard, was among the first victims to be identified.

Among the items recovered include 2 revolvers, 5 watches and cash worth RM 6,000.00. IN a book, the Police Commissioner Yusof Khan said:

There were bodies all over the floor of the plane…,they were mangled in different ways. Tun Fuad was sprawled (falls with one’s arm and legs spread out in an awkward way) grotesquely (unnatural shape), his limbs at an odd angle to his body. I recognised him by his size. Peter Mojuntin had his face untouched but there was only a bloody hole at the back of his head. The smell of blood was terrible and my chaps were at the point of fainting, but we managed to get the bodies out of the plane and lined up near to it so that we could make a quick identification. There were no survivors. I was horrifed to see that almost every Berjaya senior leader was there. Only Harris was missing.[

Police Commissioner Yusof Khan, 6 June 1976

at 6:00 PM on the same day, the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah announced the sad news to the nation.

Tun Fuad and his Party were returning to Kota Kinabalu from Labuan when the Sabah Air Nomad Aircraft, coming in to land at the airport, spun and crashed. The aircraft broke into several pieces. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

Datuk Harris Salleh, Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah, 6:00 PM, 6 June 1976

Datuk Harris then sent a telephone message to the Prime Minister at that time, Datuk Hussein Onn. The Prime Minister then immediately ordered a full scale investigation into the cause of the crash, comprising special officers from the Civil Aviation Department, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Royal Malaysian Police and other related government departments.

Aftermath

Investigation by GAF

The aircraft manufacturer, Australia-based Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) has decided to launch an investigation in order to prove that the crash was not caused by a mechanical defect. It was done in cooperation with the officials from the Australian Department of Transport. Some four months later, the authorities have completed the probe but they also have made the full report classified under the Official Secrets Act. According to the official statement, pilot error and aircraft overload are the contributing factors of the aircraft crash.

Double Six Monument

Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.37.40
Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.37.40
Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.39.46
Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.39.46

Not long after the accident, a memorial was constructed in Sembulan area near Grace Garden housing complex in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It is obelisk in shape and made from stone. It is named as “Tugu Peringatan Double Six” (Double Six), marking a significant tragedy in Sabah history. The monument is erected on the exact spot of the crash (GPS Coordinates: 5.962217, 116.061811). It is dedicated to the state ministers perished in the crash.

Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.38.44
Double Six Monument 2017-03-25 16.38.44

Decades after

As of 2019, the Malaysian government has not released a full report of the accident, even after 43 years it happened.

On 6 June 2019, FMT News reported that the Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said the full report of the incident remains classified. IN addition, she also said that the Sabahans regard those who lost their lives that day as heroes and the date is an important one for the state government.

Sources

  1. Double Six Crash – mysabah.com
  2. Double Six Monument – Sabah Tourism Board
  3. Peter J. Mojuntin The Golden Son of The Kadazan by Bernard Sta Maria. Published in May 1978. (C) Bernard Sta Maria
  4. Tun Fuad Stephens – Wikipedia
  5. GAF Nomad – Wikipedia
  6. 1976 Sabah Air GAF Nomad – Wikipedia
  7. Report on Double Six tragedy still classified after 43 years – FMT News

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