According to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Joachim Gunsalam, the students from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Ulu Sugut had been on the bridge in Kampung Gusi at around 9pm Monday when the wire mesh and wooden bridge collapsed.
“The bridge is old — about 10 years old, and there has been on and off repairs but it is rickety.
“Around eight students had gathered on the one spot — perhaps this is why the bridge gave way,” said Joachim, who is also Kundasang state assemblyman and Industrial Development minister.
The fall is said to be around 18 metres.
One student, a 16-year-old girl, broke bones in her thigh and shin while a male student suffered spinal injuries. The rest reportedly sustained light injuries.
All eight of the students aged between 15 and 18 years’ old are receiving treatment at the Ranau district hospital.
The bridge is said to be one of the few spots in the village where the cellular signal needed for Internet access was intermittently available at night time.
SMK Ulu Sugut Parent-Teacher Association chairman Ratimin Kukunut was reported saying that it had become a regular occurrence for the students in the village to follow their online classes on the bridge at night.
“Internet connection in Kampung Gusi is terrible, but it is better at night on that particular spot on the bridge,” he said.
Joachim said that he was monitoring the student’s medical progress and will ask for allocation from the federal or state government to rebuild the bridge.
“Next week I will go to the village myself to check on the condition of the bridge. I have asked my officers to go to the Prime Minister’s Department to get allocation to rebuild the bridge. The only means of transport now in small boats,” he said.
“I hope that the villagers can be patient and strong through this while we rebuild the bridge. I offer them my sympathies and hope the injured students will recover soon,” he said.
Kampung Gusi is 80km away from the nearest town of Ranau. The journey is a six-hour drive requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle to manoeuvre through its muddy perilous roads.
Poor infrastructure, facilities, and internet connectivity particularly in rural areas of Sabah has been well documented in the past, but remain a source of complaints, particularly now that schools have closed and classes have gone online and students have to rely on internet access.
In June, Sabahan student Veveonah Mosibin gained national attention after she made an online video of herself camping atop a tree near her home town in Pitas as that was the only way she could reliably get online to take her university tests then.