KOTA KINABALU, May 14 ― Khunakorn Kocharint will always have a deep bond with Sabah. After all, this is where the 21-year-old Thai student was given a second shot at life, thanks to mountain guide Robbi Sapinggi who died saving him during the nightmarish 6.0-magnitude earthquake that killed 17 others here in June last year.
Forever indebted to Robbie, the architecture major flew in to Sabah last night to pay his respects to his saviour and to also gift the fallen mountain guide’s family 50,000 baht (RM5,600), the total sum of his prize money that he won in a recent design competition in Bangkok.
“He felt indebted to Robbi for helping him get off the mountain safely, and in the process, had sacrificed his own life.
“He told us he felt indebted to Robbi and wanted to donate the money to Robbi’s family,” Dinna Daisy, business development manager of tour company Amazing Borneo that had paired the duo for their trek up Mount Kinabalu last year.
It was also Dinna who had arranged for Kocharint to meet Robbi’s father Sapinggi Ladsou today so the Thai could offer his wishes to the family in person.
Their meeting at Amazing Borneo’s office was kept low-key, sans press, but pictures of the duo posted on the tour operator’s Facebook page has since drawn nearly 1,000 responses at the time of writing.
Kocharint, a third-year architecture student at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Bangkok, flew in last night just to meet with Robbi’s family, and will leave tomorrow.
He had come to Sabah last year on a solo trip and climbed the mountain with Robbi as his mountain guide.
Tragedy struck at about 7.15am June 5, 2015 when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Southeast Asia’s highest mountain and caused rockfall to tumble down its steep slopes.
Kocharint told staff of Amazing Borneo that he had fallen unconscious from being hit by rocks and when he came to, Robbi was by his side but injured, and told him to go down quickly ahead of him.
Robbi’s body was later found by an emergency personnel at about 4pm the same day, near Laban Rata, roughly 20m from where it was believed he was hit by hurtling rocks during the earthquake and sustained head injuries.
His body was the first to be taken down by rescuers at about 8.25pm.
Robbi, a native of Kampung Kiau at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, is survived by a son now aged 1 and his wife, Reena Joshi.
Climbers view him as a hero for his sacrifice.
The Ranau earthquake killed a total of 18 people, including 10 Singaporean schoolchildren and four mountain guides.
The mountain was closed off to climbers for about six months after the quake to facilitate repairs and safety measures. It has since been reopened.