NOT many of us would have done what Herman Sihas alias Mohd Sulaiman Abdullah did.
Although he could not swim, this Bidayuh Salako could not allow himself to just be a bystander and do nothing as Form 6 student Kho Ying Qi struggled in the raging waters of a swollen monsoon drain last Thursday.
It is hard to understand what must have been going through his mind when he dove into the waters.
Judging from what his family members — who knew him best — have said, Herman would have simply put Kho’s life before his own.
His cousin Billy Sujang said Herman, originally from Kampung Jangkar, Lundu, was a “humanitarian”.
“Herman’s brave like that. He jumped into the waters. That’s him. When he could help, he helped anyone, including strangers,” Billy is reported as saying.
On the day he drowned, his sister also said she was not surprised by Herman’s selfless act because it was in his nature to always help others.
He must have been a relatively bright student as he was selected to complete his secondary school years in Peninsula Malaysia. It was there that he converted to Islam at age 15.
When he completed his studies, something called this Sarawakian home.
Although some have labelled his ultimately failed bid to save Kho as foolhardy, most Sarawakians recognise the hero that Herman Sihas was.
He saw neither race nor religion … just a fellow human being in need of help.
Herman was laid to rest yesterday at the Semariang Aman cemetery.
Rest well dear son of Sarawak. Rest well.
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” — Albert Pine
A report from the NST
Praises pour in for Sulaiman
By Desmond Davidson
TRIBUTES continue to pour in yesterday for the 28-year-old petrol station worker for his courage in trying to save a SMK Batu Lintang Upper 6 student, who had fallen into a swift-flowing flooded drain on Thursday.
A search-and-rescue team from the Fire and Rescue department found Herman Sihas alias Mohd Sulaiman Abdullah’s body floating in Sungei Maong at 8.45am yesterday, about 4km from where he and the student, Kho Ying Qi, 19, were swept off near his place of work, the Shell service station at Rock Road.
Kuching district police chief ACP Mun Kock Keong, in confirming the recovery, said the body had been sent to the Sarawak general hospital for a post mortem.
Sungei Maong is a tributary of Sungai Sarawak.
The search for Kho’s body continues. Mun said the Marine police was now assisting in the search right up to the mouth Sungai Sarawak at Santubong.
Praises were heaped on Sulaiman for his action in jumping into the 1.5m drain to try to save someone he did not know.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu extended the state government’s condolences to his family.
Sulaiman was from Kampung Jangkar, near Biawak in Lundu, 100km from Kuching.
Articles from The Borneo Post:
Risking his life to save another
By Gary Adit
KUCHING: Petrol station worker Herman Sihas’ nature of going out of his way to help others in need may have cost him his own life.
Herman dived into a swollen monsoon drain yesterday to rescue a drowning Upper 6 student despite not knowing how to swim. The 28-year-old from Lundu jumped into the fierce water together with an off-duty fireman in a desperate but ultimately failed bid to save 19-year-old Kho Ying Qi.
Kho fell into the monsoon drain while walking along the submerged road following flash floods which struck the city early yesterday.
Several co-workers described Herman, who only started working at the station a week ago after moving from another station in Kenyalang Park, as an extremely helpful and hard-working person who always put the needs of others above his own.
“I don’t know why he jumped in when he did not know how to swim, but I guess his instinct to help someone in distress made him forget the fact,” said co-worker Faidadul Maslan, 19, adding that Herman was always the first to arrive for work.
The incident took place around 7am, when Kho, an SMK Batu Lintang student, was leaving her school after classes were cancelled due to the flash flood.
According to a source, her Toyota car stalled along a flooded back road from the school leading to Jalan Rock, prompting her to call her mother for advice.
She was then told to abandon the vehicle and wait at a nearby bus stop for her mother to pick her up, and was making her way there when she slipped and fell into the swollen monsoon drain.
Meanwhile, 42-year-old fireman Talip Awie, a 17-year veteran of the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba), was coincidentally at the petrol station when Kho fell.
“I walked from the Batu Lintang fire station to the petrol station to meet up with my wife and four children after they were stranded by the flood.
“I had only just arrived when the workers shouted at me that a girl had fallen into the drain, and I turned to see her flailing arms as she was being swept away,” recalled Talip.
He said he dove into the drain and managed to grab Kho’s hair, but lost his grip due to the strong flowing water and could only watch as she vanished underwater.
He then climbed out of the drain and made his way back to the station, only to be told by the workers that one of their own had followed him and had also jumped into the drain to rescue the girl.
“I rushed back to the drain but could not see either one of them any more,” said Talip.
An extensive search-and-rescue operation was immediately launched, beginning at the point where the duo disappeared and stretching all the way to Sungai Maong Ulu.
Senior Bomba officer Farhan Sufyan Borhan said the search team comprised 10 firemen and four scuba divers, and that the operation would go on until the missing persons are found.
He added that the water level where Kho initially fell into the drain was about waist-high, but would have reached neck-high at the point where she disappeared.
It is also learned that the Civil Defence Department had despatched its personnel to aid in the operation.
A large crowd, including Herman’s sister and Kho’s mother, gathered at the scene after learning of the incident.
Late in the afternoon, firemen searching along the river at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce found a wrist watch which Kho’s father confirmed was his daughter’s as well as a shoe believed to belong to Herman.
City police chief ACP Mun Kock Keong said the search operation would continue until midnight, adding that as of 7pm none of the victims had been found.
Herman’s body found 3km from where he went missing
KUCHING: The body of petrol station worker Herman Sihas @ Mohd Sulaiman Abdullah, who went missing after jumping into a swollen monsoon drain at Jalan Rock last Thursday to try to save drowning student Kho Ying Qi, 19, was found yesterday, some three kilometres from where he disappeared.
The body of the 28-year-old was spotted floating beneath a bridge at Lorong Sungai Maong Ulu 3 at 8.45am by Civil Defence Department personnel, and sent to the mortuary for a post mortem.
However, Kho, who was swept away during Thursday morning’s flash flood, remains missing.
District police chief ACP Mun Kock Keong told a press conference that Herman’s body was found approximately three kilometres from where the incident occurred.
“Following the discovery, his status has been changed from ‘missing person’ to ‘sudden death’, pending the outcome of the post mortem. Kho is still listed as a missing person.”
He added that the search operation, comprising personnel from the Marine police, Civil Defence Department and the Fire and Rescue Services Department, would continue until the missing student was found.
“We hope the good weather will continue so that the operation to find her is not hampered.”
Meanwhile, SUPP president Datuk Seri Peter Chin visited the Sarawak General Hospital mortuary to console Herman’s grieving family and to hand over a personal donation.
Herman, originally from Kampung Jangkar in Lundu, was buried yesterday afternoon at the Semariang Muslim Cemetery with the help of neighbours of Taman Semariang Aman, where he had been staying with his sister and her family.
Present were Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah and Assistant Minister of Resource Planning Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais.
Fatimah, meanwhile, disclosed that the deceased converted to Islam in 2000 with the knowledge of his parents, adding that his father is a former soldier.
She thanked his neighbours on behalf of the state government for their assistance in handling the burial arrangements, and added that cash relief assistance had been given to Herman’s family.
A report from The Star:
Herman Sihas: Hero to the end
KUCHING: The search for hero Herman Sinas, who lost his life trying to save another during flash floods here this week, has come to an end.
His body was found at 8.35am yesterday in Sungai Maong Ulu here, after being flushed out from a covered drain next to a mechanic’s workshop.
A team of five search and rescue personnel aboard a speedboat recovered the body, about 2km from where the 29-year-old jumped into raging flood-waters, after hearing Form Six schoolgirl Kho Ying Qi’s cries for help.
The search for Kho continues round the clock daily — divers are now also exploring the city’s many covered drains.
Confirmation of Herman’s death was met with an immediate outpouring of emotions from rescuers and residents, who had gathered at a nearby bridge, but most of all, his own family of seven.
Herman was the third of five siblings. Most of his immediate family members arrived at the Sarawak General Hospital morque at 10.10am yesterday.
Herman’s mother and sister broke down when they saw hid body wrapped up in a black body bag and unloaded from a truck by policemen and rescuers.
The mother, who declined to be named, wept openly but quietly. Her daughter Sabrina held her as the two turned away looking in the opposite direction.
The family asked for privacy from the media, but it is believed that the last time they saw Herman was on Christmas. He returned to work at a petrol kiosk in Jalan Rock last Dec 26.
The family is from Lundu, about 120km from here. At the morgue, the family’s patriarch was not present as the family asked him to remain at home due to his heart condition.
“We think it’s too much for him (to be here). We’ll all be at the funeral later today,” a family member told The Star. Herman is the only Muslim in the family.
Mohd Sulaiman Abdullah converted when he was 15 as a Form Three student in Kuala Lumpur. Still Herman to his family, they said the State Islamic Council had agreed to pay for the funeral, a private ceremony at the Surau Semariang Aman cemetery yesterday at 2pm.
His cousin Billy Sujang, a state Health Department worker, was present at the morgue and had been lending a helping hand throughout the ordeal. He called Herman a “humanitarian”, who was at all times concerned for the welfare of others.
“Herman’s brave like that. He jumped into the waters. That’s him. When he could help, he helped anyone, including strangers,” Billy told reporters, when he was in Sungai Maong Ulu, observing search and rescue operations.
Not much is known of Herman. What reporters know of him are gleaned from his colleagues and from friends. Herman, a Bidayuh Salako, grew up with his family in Kampung Jangkar, Lundu.
In his teenage years, he attended secondary school in the peninsula, and returned to Sarawak some years ago to begin working.
He had just started a new job at the petrol kiosk in Jalan Rock, after the previous one he was working at close to Kenyalang Park, closed down prior to the new year.
Online, on a Facebook page dedicated to Herman by his relative Billy, hundreds of messages were posted by yesterday afternoon. Some spoke of Herman’s kind nature; others, on his hard-working attitude at work.
Friends like Lydia Ng wrote: “May our hero RIP,” while Danny Manium said: “You are the people’s HERO, my friend”.