SEVEN days after he went missing on Mount Singai here, hiker Stanley Kho, 22, was found alive this morning.
Finding him was not only jubilating news for the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) personnel who have been camping there looking for him, it also brought joy and relief to Sarawakians who have been following the news closely, with some praying for his survival.
Kho went hiking with friends on Sept 17, but he decided to go his own way. After completing their hike and upon noticing Kho missing, three of his friends lodged a police report at 4.30pm.
On the same day, firemen immediately launched a full-scale search by land, but to no avail. The search later ballooned from a small group of search and rescue (SAR) personnel to over 300 individuals from multiple agencies such as Bomba, police, army, border regiments, general operations force (GOF), Rela, hiking groups, volunteers and villagers.
The rescue team had to navigate very difficult terrain. Besides using search dogs, they also deployed drones; but for days, there was still no clue where Kho was.
“This case is very tough because there is no sign of the exact location of where he went missing. We also brought in the police K9 in the search, but it failed because there was no scent. There was not even a scent that search dogs could pick up,” said Bomba deputy director (Operations) Tiong Ling Hii, who stressed that there was zero evidence showing any sign of Kho during the search.
As the search continued, Kho’s family decided to engage the services of a few ‘bomoh’ (shamans). Although the shamans came at different times, they all had the same conclusion — Kho is still alive but ‘something’ in the forest is “hiding and keeping him”.
What was even more intriguing was that all the shamans pointed to the same spot where Kho was believed to be — a section deep in the jungle and near the river. But he was not there, either.
With the weather suddenly turning cold the last few days, some believed Kho might not be able to make it, but others believed he was still alive.
This was because there were already many similar cases in Sarawak: Hikers, hunters and even villagers going missing in the forest for a few days and then miraculously reappearing one day.
It is a common belief in Sarawak that spirits in the forest might entice humans and keep them for a few days because the spirits want some human company. It could also be because humans had trespassed into “their territory”.
The spirits would bring humans into another realm or dimension where he or she could not be seen or detected by anyone, not even by animals or high technology gadgets. But usually after a few days, the spirits would ‘release’ its prisoner and the missing person would be found.
For the firefighters who are used to dealing with such cases, they usually don’t give up because they know if they continue to search, one day when the forest is ready, they will find what they were looking for.
So when Kho was found, the reactions were both surprising and non-surprising at the same time. According to sources, when Bomba personnel interviewed Kho in the private hospital where he is now receiving treatment, he reportedly told them that “I met a pretty girl while hiking. She offered me a flower and I continued to follow her until last night”.
After seven days, Kho was found on a steep hill slope of 80 degrees at 8.40am, roughly 300 metres from the Bomba Control Post.
During the said interview, Kho also mentioned that he had heard people calling for him, but he somehow just could not open his mouth to answer the calls.
When Kho was discovered, the place where he was found was not the same as the one indicated earlier by the shamans.
Regardless of whether Kho going missing was truly due to something paranormal at work or because he was injured and hallucinating due to lack of water and food, one thing is real — Sarawakians in general are glad that he has been found alive.
Editor’s note: This version corrects an earlier version that reported that both Kho’s legs were broken. This has since been clarified.