Sombre atmosphere prevails as ‘gold prospector’ Mat’s body is retrieved from cave

Rescuers successfully brought out Mat Tapa’s body from Gunung Tabai at 6.22pm.

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By Nancy Nais

BAU, March 26: The body of Martin Mat Tapa, 25, was successfully taken out of the tunnel in Gunung Tabai at 6.22pm today.

Although it was not in perfect condition, 10 rescuers who were mostly villagers painstakingly ensured that every part of his body was successfully taken out.


After securing his body in a bag, rescuers began lifting and pulling it up towards the entrance of the cave at 4pm.

It took them some two-and-half hours to bring Mat’s body out of the 80-meter deep tunnel.

Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) Bau station chief PKPgB Tawang Lingem explained, “rescuers faced extreme difficulties in removing the body out of the rubble due to unstable soil movement.

Local villagers were hailed as ‘heroes’ for their attempts and non-stop in giving up to bring Mat Tapa’s body out of Gunung Tabai.

“On top of that, the tunnel was extremely narrow with many crooked or bending corners, making it even worse to move and pull the body as they ascended at these sections.”

On March 23, Mat, from Kampung Bijuray, was trapped and crushed to death by rocks in a tunnel inside the cave while digging for gold with two other friends.

Although rescuers managed to enter the narrow tunnel and found Mat’s body on March 24, they could not remove it because the location was too dangerous to do so until yesterday evening.

Today, at 10.30am, rescuers entered the tunnel in another attempt to recover the body.

However, upon arrival where the body was, rescuers were heavy-hearted upon seeing that the ground condition has changed to worse when the water has entered the area, burying Mat even deeper inside.

Rescuers working their way inside the tunnel to bring Mat Tapa’s body out.

They reported that while they could see Mat’s shoulder, hand and leg yesterday, today only his left hand was visible.

The ground condition will also endanger the site if they try to dig further and remove the body.

Rescuers then exited the tunnel at noon to discuss the matter further.

Together with Bau district police chief DSP Poge Nyaon, Tawang then informed the matter to Mat’s family especially his father Tapa Monya.

Tapa, 73, has been sitting and patiently waiting outside the cave with his daughter Freshilla Tapa, 26, and other family members since morning.

Mat’s father, Tapa, still full of fortitude even at the loss of his son in the tragedy.

He listened calmly and accepted Tawang’s report, acknowledging that rescuers might not be able to bring his son’s body out of the cave.

However, after their lunch break, rescuers said they wished to make another attempt to go in.

When news came out at about 3.30pm that they manage to remove his body out of the rubble, those waiting outside the cave quickly made the necessary preparations such as bringing in enough bags while other villagers started to line up to help carry the stretcher.

Everyone including Mat’s family members waited patiently and quietly.

It wasn’t until the rain started pouring heavily when rescuers appeared at the mouth of the tunnel with Mat’s body at 6.22pm.

Also involved in the operation were members of the Bau District Police Headquarters (IPD) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). — DayakDaily