MERSING: The tragedy is still fresh in the mind of Johor Fire and Rescue acting director Asst Comm Mohd Rizal Buang.

He can never forget the six firemen killed during a search and rescue (SAR) operation for a teenager who drowned in a mine in Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong, Selangor, almost four years ago.

Mohd Rizal, who was then Selangor Fire and Rescue (Operations Division) assistant director, said although members of the SAR team were deeply saddened by the incident, the show of support and encouragement from Malaysians helped boost their spirit to continue the search.

“We were very sad by the death of our six colleagues, but we had a job to do and divided it among ourselves. We had officers making preparations for the funeral rites of our deceased colleagues while others had to focus on our unfinished mission, which was to find the victim who was still missing then,” he said when interviewed by Bernama recently in conjunction with Malaysia Day.

The unwavering support and assistance from Malaysians helped to boost morale and kept his teammates focused on the search, he added.

“We were overwhelmed with the show of support by the Malaysian people at that time, from the grassroots to the country’s highest leadership. We felt their sympathy, there was a sense of togetherness, like we are a family.

“The spirit of the Malaysian Family was already there, giving us, the red heroes, the courage to face the tragedy and continue with our task,” he said, adding that various types of assistance was given to the families of the six firemen who died in the tragedy.

Besides housing assistance, he said, the children of the deceased were also given scholarships and other school aid.

Apart from that, he said, the Social Welfare Department also provided counselling and conducted programmes, including workshops, to help members of the team deal with the loss of their six colleagues.

“A number of programmes were conducted to restore our spirits and help us deal with the trauma,” he added.

In the Oct 3, 2018, incident, six Fire and Rescue Department Underwater Rescue Unit divers drowned during a search and rescue operation for Muhammad Ilham Fahmy Mohammad Azzam, 17, who was believed to have fallen into a disused mining pond in Taman Putra Perdana.