Darkness in the Sunshine

on Monday, December 03, 2007

PhotoCredits: The Star
Paratroopers scattered around the airport and surroundings

Some landed heavily or were dragged by the wind

It was the 2nd of December, Sunday morning, and at the end of a three day enjoyable but hectic schedule on the magical, sun-blest islands of Langkawi. I was due to catch the 12.30 afternoon ferry back to the mainland. Until then, there was nothing else to do after breakfast but to finally take a swim in the cool, clear, inviting waters off Cenang Beach.

I was enjoying the relative quiet and calm, just floating in the calm sea and occasionally diving to the bottom to pick up some shell that I could see at the bottom. Earlier, the fishermen were dragging in their nets near the shore but that activity had stopped. Being a sleepy Sunday morning, the large hordes of tourists had not yet arrived and apart from a few friends tossing a ball about a hundred meters away and a handful of sun-bathers, there was nothing but the sea, the sun and the relaxing lapping of the gentle waves.

At about 10.30 am., the peace was to be shattered by the sound of the sonic boom of jet fighters. In two days time, the island was hosting LIMA 2007 (Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace). This showcase of the best in naval and aeronautical products was attracting planes, ships and buyers from around the world. In the lead up to the event, planes were flying and practicing their routines. The famous British Red Arrows Aerobatic Team was also present.

At first, I resented the loud intrusion to my quiet time but then I paid attention to the planes booming past. Someone had told me that there would be Harrier jets and that was a plane that I was interested in seeing. However, the jets had flown by and ended their runs. Instead, there were at least 4 large propeller transport planes slowly lumbering across the sky but they were divulging paratroopers as they went. Soon we were treated to the sight of long lines of parachutes floating slowly and gracefully to the ground. It was quite a wonderful sight.

However, we could not see from so far away that in fact the paratroopers were in grave trouble. The 138 paratroopers from the 10th Brigade Para based at Terendak Camp, Malacca were taking part in a full dressed rehearsal of a mock exercise in demonstrating the capture of an airstrip by airborne forces. This exercise is meant to be part of the opening ceremony for LIMA 2007. Unfortunately, the paratroopers were buffeted by gusts of high winds which resulted in lines getting entangled and up to 18 paratroopers blown off course. Some landed heavily at the airport and were dragged along the tarmac by the strong winds. Some landed on planes and other equipment, breaking bones. A few landed in the nearby town, smashing through roofs, getting caught up in trees or landing on cars. Some were carried out by the wind into the sea.

In the end, three died and eleven others were seriously injured. T
he dead which included two women were identified as Trooper Raimond Duncan, 25, from Simunjan, Sarawak; Private Nurul Wahida Yunos, 20, from Tanjung Malim, Perak; and Ranger Siti Hajar Yakub, 24, from Masjid Tanah, Malacca. One drowned and the other two died of hypothermia.

Of course, Malaysians are all shocked by this tragedy and we grieve with those whose loved ones have been lost or injured. For me, it seemed so surreal that while I was enjoying the sun and the sea, this life and death drama was unfolding in front of my eyes.

Death striking in the full glare of the tropical sun and tragedy painted amidst the peaceful, azure waters. It did not seem right. It feels like Paradise has been tainted and corrupted.

Others landed on top of planes and equipment.
(Planes of the RAF Red Arrows in background)

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Anonymous said...

wow lgs that's quite an experience.
It's so sad about the death of the troops.

Janice Thomson said...

A very sad but perfect illustration of how not everything is as it appears to be. This serves as a reminder before making a judgment of any kind make sure you know both sides of the coin. Thank you for this story Lgs. My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones.
I wrote about this in the last taiga(picture and poem)where I spoke of the beauty of snowflakes but added "with such a softness comes a hardness too". Today after all the beautiful snow it is pouring rain and the basement is now becoming flooded.

Odat said...

Wow...what a story...I was first captured by the pics..(how lovely), then by your story of a swim.....then shocked!!!! OMG...What a tradgedy!!!

Open Grove Claudia said...

First, I'm glad you were able to get some much needed rest.

I am sorry about the paratroopers. How awful for them and for their families. The only positive is that most paratroopers love to jump - regardless of the conditions. They may have died doing what they love - that's real blessing.

I will light a candle for them and their families

Marja said...

What a tragic happening LGS. I have a tear in my eye and sent my prayers for the the ones who lost their loved ones.

leslie said...

Like Janice's poem, our illusions of calm and peace can suddenly be shattered with the reality of death. I, too, am saddened by the accidental deaths and injuries and will pray for them and their families as well as for those who survived but have probably been shaken to the utter roots of their souls.

Claire said...

That is really awful lgs. One minute life is good, then, Boom! -it sucks. I can relate.
I'm sorry for the paratroopers that lost their lives and their families for whom this will be a most unhappy December.

Jocelyn said...

Wow. What a jarring juxtaposition between your peaceful idyll and the tragedy around you.

I would never have known about this, were it not for your blog.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks. I knew you would understand.

It is a reminder that in life, peace,calm, tranquility and even safety is an illusion when in fact tragedy can strike at any moment.

I was trying to convey to you my own experience of peace, wonder and then shock.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for watching out for me but in actual fact, this trip was work related and quite tiring in itself due to long traveling times. I did get a few hours on the beach on two days and I really enjoyed that though the last day was tainted by this tragedy.

Thanks. It is appreciated.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks. You are absolutely right that those who survived and the loved ones are shaken to the core. There was a photo of a fellow paratrooper, sitting dejectedly in a truck, hiding his face from the world.

I am beginning to understand what you mean when you say that you can relate. Wow. That is so unsettling. I admire your strength.

It was in fact jarring for me as it happened before my eyes and I didn't even realise what was happening until I saw the news later. It reminded me that death and suffering is in fact occuring somewhere in the world every minute but most of us have pushed it out of our minds and filled it instead with illusions of wealth and happiness.

the walking man said...

This is exactly what happened to the 82nd airborne on D-day in Europe. Those people had to jump these people did not and the commander who ordered it knowing the wind conditions should be held entirely responsible. The show does not have to always go on.

May the families of the fallen find comfort in knowing their loved ones died not in war but in peace.



Kathleen said...

How tragic! ...and such a reminder of the dangers inherent to the many activities routinely done by the military in training .... even in a time of peace their activities put them at much risk... how sad a story against such a scenic serene backdrop

Margaret said...

Surely, not what you expected in the least. What an experience.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

The commander denied ordering the troops to jump in dangerous conditions. To me though it seemed like a risky business even in the calmest conditions as the sea is just 30 m away from the airport. Being Malaysia, the truth may never be told.

I noticed the name change to kathleen. Do you prefer the latter? Yes, it is sad that sorrow of this nature visited such a pretty setting.

I completed my swim and had lunch and went on my journey before realising the tragedy that had occured.

kat said...

I like all my names and any name you prefer and choose to call me ....and one day I may pop in here with a new name du jour, like Katie or Kathy, but though I have multiple names I have no multiple personalities... just many moods as do we all ... moods are not reflected by any choice of names however. ... just keeping a certain squirrel who balances well on his toes!

Anonymous said...

The photos are great, but it is sad that the landings were not good and that three people died. :(


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

well, I like kat. I too answer to many names so i know what you mean. If we had dinner out, I'd use Kathleen. Don't know why. Seems right.

Sadness in a picture perfect setting. Chills in the sunlight. I still feel the chill.

Cheryl said...

Oh, how terrible. Such a tragedy, and to have it happen in the middle of a perfect day. Another reason to enjoy life every day that you have it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Yes. A reminder to live life to the full because we do not really know when it will end.

tsduff said...

Wow, the irony of the calm peace of the warm sun juxtapositioned over the drama of death so near is horrifying.

I don't understand it sometimes.

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