KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 (Bernama) -- "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! We are going down!"
That could have been the last words uttered by the pilot of the ill-fated Douglas C47B-DK Dakota C4 plane before it disappeared from the radar screens on Aug 25 in 1950 over the jungles of Gua Musang in Kelantan.
Since then, the crashed aircraft had been a mystery for 58 years but this was answered last Nov 12 after a special team set up by the Malaysian army came out from the Gua Musang jungles with the skeletal remains of the Dakotas crew and parts of the plane.
The Dakota C4, registration number KN630, was from the British Royal Air Forces (RAF) 52nd Squadron based in Changi, Singapore.
According to the Malaysian military archives, the Dakota piloted by Lt Edward Robert Talbolt was dropping smoke markers during a bombing run on the communist terrorists positions in Gua Musang when the tragedy happened.
The ill-fated plane was carrying 12 people when it crashed.
Apart from the pilot, they were seven British troopers, a member of the Malayan police, two civilians and an Orang Asli guide.
Taking into consideration the security situation at that time, the search and rescue team that had discovered the planes wreckage decided to bury the crews remains near the spot where they found the aircraft.
The mission to recover the crews remains began after their next-of-kin applied through the Malaysian military attache in London, early this year, for a search to be made to recover whats left of the Dakota.
Hence, the order went out for the remains to be brought out and a search party from the Armys 8th Brigade at Pengkalan Chepa Camp in Kota Baharu managed to locate the exact position of the wreckage last June.
Based on this discovery, Army Chief Jen Tan Sri Muhammad Ismail Jamaluddin said the military was willing to assist the British Government to bring out the remains.
A special 100-member expedition team comprising representatives of the Royal Malaysia Police, Institute of National Forensics Medicine, Universiti Sains Malaysias (USM) Archeology Research Centre, Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM), Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA), National Heritage Department, Forestry Department and Malaysian Historical Group (MHG) as well the representatives of the British government was assembled.
According to Army Museum Director, Lt Kol Norhayati Mansor, the Garis Waktu team comprised many specialists in their respective areas of knowledge, as their skills were needed for the mission to be successful.
The 10-day expedition started last Nov 2, led by Mejar Mohd Izam Md Yamin. The team members started the journey on four-wheel-drive vehicles.
However a journey that usually took about five hours from Gua Musang to reach the timber camp at Kompatment 117, became 12 hours due to torrential downpour.
The team had to scale up a hill for some two hours before reaching the site of the plane crash, located about 30km from Kampung Penchong, Gua Musang.
The bad weather made the climb difficult for the team members.
Rain caused the earth to be waterlogged and soggy, posing more problems for the excavation team who had to exercise caution during extrication of the skeletal remains of the planes crew.
On Nov 8, the team had to scramble to safety and away from the crash site as the heavy rain caused a flood at the spot, placing them in danger.
The team had been digging out the soil around the crash site for days to no avail.
But on Nov 9, during a heavy rain, team member found a shred of yellow-coloured cloth-like material and referred his discovery to the teams research head Kapten Muhd Zuraiman Abdul Ghani.
After a close scrutiny, he confirmed that the material was a piece of a rubber dinghy or mae vest known to be carried by the Dakota.
He then directed for the 'rescue excavation' method to be immediately carried out and the ensuing search found several human bones.
An interesting point to note was the fact that the bones were found some 67 metres away from the initial excavation site and the digging was made difficult as the area where the skeletal remains were discovered was at a rivulet.
Among the bones found were parts of the femur, skull and mandible. A flying boot believed to have been worn by a British trooper on board the Dakota was also recovered.
TWELVE BAGS OF SKELETAL REMAINS
Institute of National Forensics Medicine Director, Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood said 12 bags of skeletal remains were recovered from the site and have been handed over to the Army Museum authorities for forensic tests to be carried out by Gua Musang Hospital.
Some of the bone fragments were also handed over to HUSM for DNA tests while tooth fragments found at the scene had been passed to the Armed Forces (ATM) Forensic Odontologist Brig Jen Dr Mohd Ilham Haron for identification and further tests.
Dr Mohd Shah said: "The expedition was a success as we have managed to move out 12 bags of human skeletal parts.
"We are happy with the outcome as the next-of-kin of the crew could now give them better and proper burial", he said.
He said the preliminary forensic tests indicated that the skeletal remains were that of three different individuals while the initial odontology examination revealed that the tooth parts were that of two different persons.
DAKOTA KN630 IN HISTORY
Meanwhile Insp. Harris Turung, 27, a member of the team, said the discovery of the RAFs Dakota KN630 parts brought back the memories of the nations battle against the communist terrorists.
"Even though I have been serving at the Gua Musang Police Headquarters since 2005, I do not know that this area stores a national relic.
"I am proud to be part of this mission as one of the crew members was also a policeman", he said.
For Insp Aimi Liana Ahmad Zaki of the PDRMs Forensics Laboratory, taking part in the expedition is something deeply entrenched in her memory.
"Being able to view the Dakota wreckage from close range is something unique as I have to move through various obstacles in order to get to the site.
"It was thrilling, as the Dakota wreckage appeared to be as what it could have looked like after the crash happened some 58 years back", she said.
Aimi Liana said the wreckages discovery was something that Malaysians could be proud of as it reminded the people that their forefathers had to battle hard against the communist terrorists to preserve the country's honour and sanctity.