Drowning of 3 boys in army training pool: My son was yearning to 'balik kampung'

TEMERLOH: Sergeant Mohd Anizan Daud opened his WhatsApp to send a message to his eldest son, Nor Amar Mukhlis, to let him know that his weekend plans to go "balik kampung" were coming together.

However, when he saw traffic on his residence WhatsApp group abuzz with a drowning incident at the nearby army training pool here, the sergeant immediately dropped his task in the barb-wired outfield and rushed to the scene, as the tragedy unfolded starkly that not one but three children of army personnel had drowned in a swimming escapade at the restricted zone of the army camp in Temerloh.

"I knew Amar Mukhlis was involved because his shirt was by the pool. I had just sent him for classes. I was confused. I recalled that in the last three or four days, he was repeatedly asking if we were going back to our village since there was a kenduri.

"I only found out yesterday afternoon that my application for leave was approved. As planned, we were supposed to leave this evening and by a bizarre twist we are truly returning to the village as my son wished," he said when met at the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Hospital's Forensic Medicine Unit (HoSHAS) here today.

Mohd Anizan, 39, said the remains of Nor Amar Mukhlis, 13, the eldest of five siblings, would undergo cleansing and prayer rites at the mosque in the army camp before burial in his hometown, at the Kuau cemetery in Bachok, Kelantan.

Nor Amar Mukhlis and his two friends Muhammad Shafiq Aswad Shahril Naim and Aiman Shafiq Sudirman, both 11 years old, were found drowned after allegedly swimming in a tank training pool seven feet deep (2.1 metres) in the army camp here yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the distraught mother of Muhammad Shafiq Aswad, Noriah Abdul Rashid, 35, said her son asked for permission to go out to play at 4.30pm, before she received news of her second son's death when a neighbour telephoned an hour later.

"My son was also there. I rushed to the medical centre. Even though the doctor was doing his best to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), my instinct was that Abang Ngah (nickname of the deceased) is gone," said Noriah, who is pregnant with her sixth child.

Noriah said her son often helped her with delivery of cake orders to customers' homes in the afternoon, because he was saving up his wages to buy football boots, besides helping out with house chores and school activities.

Noriah said that although she was bereaved by her loss, she was grateful that her third son Muhammad Safwan Arfan, 9, who went out with the deceased somehow did not enter the water, but instead just sat by the pool.

"My third son did not speak very much after the incident. I was told that when his dead brother was (lifted) out, he sat transfixed by the pool clutching his head and calling out to his brother. Likely he was traumatised as they were really close," she said.

Noriah said the remains of Muhammad Shafiq, 11, would be buried at Kampung Wakaf cemetery in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan today.

As for the third victim, the father Corporal Sudirman Mustafa, 37, said he initially found it hard to swallow that Aiman Syafiq too drowned, as he had just sent the eldest of the three siblings to a class near their home.

Sudirman said when a friend broke the news, he rushed home to pick up his wife enroute to the camp's medical centre and prayed along the way that his son was safe.

"After classes, our children often played with friends from the same residential area. The two friends who also drowned are familiar to our family. They often go to the mosque together and then hang out at our home," he said.

The third deceased, Aiman Syafiq, will be buried at the Kampung Badak cemetery in Bachok, Kelantan. – BERNAMA

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