A GAF Nomad aircraft which took off from Labuan on June 6, 1976 for the state capital with six eminent Sabah leaders and five other passengers on board, crashed while approaching the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
Sabah’s first Chief Minister Tun Mohammed Fuad Stephens perished in the crash, along with Finance Minister Datuk Salleh Sulong, his permanent secretary Datuk Wahid Peter Andu, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Works and Communications Minister Datuk Chong Thain Vun and Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister, Datuk Darius Binion.
“When I was a Chief Minister(between 1996 and 1998), the issue (the air crash) was always there but at the time public interest was not as high as today,” Datuk Yong Teck Lee told a press conference after he and other opposition leaders paid respects to the fallen leaders at the Double Six monument site, Monday.
Also present were Sabah Star chairperson Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Tamparuli Assemblyman Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing.
“Public interest on the actual cause of the Double Six tragedy was reignited only following the speech by former minister Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah during his keynote speech in a forum in 2010.”
“In the speech, Razaleigh re-told the story of that tragic day and how, he together with two others, were already strapped inside the ill-fated 10-seater Nomad aircraft when then Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh popped in and invited them to visit a cattle farm in Bangi Island,” he said.
That invitation saved the trio from becoming one of the body counts that day but it was also a story never told to the public before, which spread like wildfire among Sabahans once it was published in the newspapers.
On the question of whether it is wise to keep going back to the day and trying to find out if there is another explanation apart from the ‘official version’
released by the government, Yong said the situation is not unique to Sabah as there are many other countries where historical events are re-evaluated years, and even decades, after they happened.
“The only time the incident was described in the form of a book was in the “Golden Son of the Kadazan”, a tribute to the late Datuk Peter Mojuntin. However, that book is still banned,” he said.
Therefore, he said, it is time to demand the declassification of the record and the people would continue to ask for this until the truth is known.
On Oct 28, 1976, four and half months after the tragedy, the official probe to the cause of the accident was over but the findings were not made public except for the statement made by the Deputy Communications Minister Mohd Ali M. Sharif.
In his reply to a question about the findings from DAP MP for Kinta, Mohd Ali said the findings did not reveal any technical errors or sabotage as being the
“What they have instead discovered is that the fault was due to ‘human error’. It also revealed that the plane’s storage space at the back of the plane, was loaded with goods above the maximum load. As a consequence, this resulted in the plane losing control, each time it attempted to land at the Kota Kinabalu airport, thus resulting in the accident,” he said.
box to record all its changes of course and altitude, as larger aircraft normally do. Witnesses on the ground reported that the plane seemed to stall before it came spiralling down from 600 feet at 3.41pm on June 6, 1976.