SEBUYAU, May 6 — A body was discovered at the Batang Lupar river where helicopter debris was found earlier today, according to the Sarawak Fire & Rescue Department.
A helicopter went missing yesterday enroute from Betong to Kuching with Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon and five others on board.
State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammad confirmed the body was that of a woman.
The body is being transported to the Sarawak General Hospital for a post-mortem examination.
Parts believed to be from the missing helicopter were found by search teams this morning.
Search and rescue operation commander Azman Julaihi said the body, likely to be Noriah’s as she was the only woman on board the helicopter, was found on the riverbank of Batang Lupar at 12pm, about 2km from where the first piece of debris was found at 10am.
“The first part of debris was found near our search area which is close to Pulau Seduku.
“It is about an hour boat ride from this (Sebuyau) jetty to the search area which is located deeper inside Sungai Batang Lupar,” he said.
Azman said at present, their search is focused on the area where the debris and body were found.
“The radius of the search area is wide, approximately 100km and we hope we find all the victims of the incident as soon as possible.
“The debris which was found was a body part from the back of the helicopter, ‘kipas ekor’ (tail fan) and one seat believed to be from the helicopter,” he said.
Azman added that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement agency, the army, the police were working together with the Fire and Rescue Department to locate all the victims.
“From our side, we have about two boats and 50 over personnels from Sibu, Betong, Sri Aman and Kuching located around the search area,” he said, referring to the Fire and Rescue Department.
Azman said that the Fire and Rescue Department had even asked help from a few fisherman around the search area.
Besides Noriah, who is also Sungai Besar MP, the five others on board the helicopter were her husband Asmuni Abdullah; Plantation Industries and Commodities secretary-general Datuk Dr Sundaran Annamalai; Kuala Kangsar MP and Malaysian Palm Oil Board chairman Datuk Wan Mohammad Khairil Anuar Wan Ahmad; bodyguard Ahmad Sobri Harun; and the pilot Captain Rudolf Rex Ragas. Both Noriah and Wan Mohammad Khairil are Umno lawmakers.
The helicopter lost contact yesterday afternoon during the Sarawak state election campaigning.