Steadfast devotion: Aunt waits outside RMAF base, come rain or shine, to say final farewell to late niece killed in helicopter crash

Patricia waiting for the arrival of Joanna's remains by the entrance of the RMAF base in Kuching on April 24, 2025.

By Marlynda Meraw and Chris Bishop

KUCHING, April 25: Amidst the whims of a sweltering sun and stormy winds, an unwavering aunt stood vigil, waiting for the arrival of her cherished niece, late navy officer Joanna Felicia Rohna.

She was among 10 navy personnel killed in a crash involving two helicopters in Lumut on April 23. The accident occurred at 9.32am during a rehearsal for the 90th Navy Day parade and celebration at the Lumut naval base in Perak. The celebration was subsequently cancelled.

The devoted 49-year-old Patricia Penny, Joanna’s distant paternal aunt, had remained steadfast at the entrance of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base here since yesterday (April 24) afternoon, her patient vigil lasting until DayakDaily encountered her at 10pm last night; a touching display of her enduring love.

“I was here since afternoon, until they (RMAF) announced that the flight was delayed. So I went around the area to have my meal, and came back here (RMAF base entrance) to wait,” she told DayakDaily.

Patricia tearfully explained that she couldn’t attend Joanna’s funeral because she had to care for her mother and dared not travel alone, especially on the dimly lit roads heading to the village.

Despite being family, Patricia wasn’t allowed entry due to the strict rules imposed by the RMAF, and therefore had to wait outside, but she wasn’t alone. Reporters and media personnel were also awaiting the late Able Seaman’s arrival by plane which had been scheduled to arrive by 8.15pm but had been delayed due to bad weather.

It seemed like appropriate weather to mourn a loss, as those present took shelter under umbrellas with the soft patter of rain adding a sombre backdrop to the melancholic evening.

At 11.54pm, the C-130 military plane carrying Joanna’s remains touched down with the entourage leaving the base only half-an -hour later at 12.30am.

Patricia broke into sobs as she waved goodbye to the vehicle transporting Joanna back to her home in Kampung Engkaroh. It did not matter that at that moment, a gust of strong wind threatened to blow away open umbrellas, because the grieving aunt was set on bidding her niece a final farewell.

Patricia waving goodbye to the vehicle transporting Joanna’s remains to Kampung Engkeroh.

Joanna is expected to be laid to rest in the Kampung Engkeroh Christian cemetery this morning (April 25) at 9am. — DayakDaily