The victim, Hartinie Abdul Malik, was sitting on the waterfront with her younger sister watching a demonstration by the Royal Malaysian Navy when the mishap took place at 10.45pm during the festivity to mark the launching of Sandakan as Nature City and Sandakan Festival 2004.
One of the three participating CB90H RMN combat boats went out of control and rammed into the seawall where the victims were seated, crushing the woman’s leg below the knee and severing it before turning turtle and capsizing.
The five navy personnel on board also sustained minor injuries. One of them, Shahrul Nizam, in his 30s, was warded for observation after he sustained a neck injury, while skipper Lt Azraf Faizuddin Che Cob had cuts on his right hand.
Police and Rela members rendered assistance to the unconscious victim by rushing her to the Duchess of Kent Hospital where her condition was said to be stable.
Doctors were said to have tried to re-attach the severed leg in an operation.
The victim’s sister, identified as Hartina, 18, was slight injured while a male companion was unharmed. Most of the crowd were shocked by the incident.
Commanding officer Shahruzaman Ahmad, describing the incident as unfortunate, assured that an investigation would be carried out.
He said Region II Commander First Admiral Datuk Abdul Aziz Jaafar was due here Wednesday to visit the victims.
In an unrelated incident, a 43-year-old man was also rushed to the hospital after being hit on the left shoulder by splinters from the fireworks launcher in an adjacent area.
Meanwhile, Sandakan Municipal Council (MPS) President, Datuk Adeline Leong said the Council expressed regret over the unforeseen incident. “We offer our sympathies to the families of the victims,” she said.
She was informed of the mishap 20 minutes after the ‘Nature City’ declaration ceremony had ended.
Leong, who visited Hartinie at the hospital Wednesday morning, described her as a brave lady who accepted her personal tragedy as fate.
“Given the circumstances, she could still offer a smile. She will be fitted with a prosthetic limb, according to the doctor,” she said.
Meanwhile, a navy spokesman told Leong that in the interest of public safety and to avert a recurrence of such accident, they would not hold a speedboat manoeuvring show again in future.
While it is good to celebrate the occasion with the people of Sandakan, security and safety measures must never be forgotten or compromised. Should the organisers, namely Sandakan Municipal Council, were more careful with its planning, not taking things for granted, the above ugly episode would not have happened. Words of comfort or sorry after the incident meant nothing even if it came from the MPS President herself.