Sabah quake survivor: 'I saw schoolmates lying unconscious around me'
He was waiting excitedly for his turn to climb the via ferrata mountain route when he felt strong tremors.
Tristan So Kwan Wing, 12, was one of the 29 pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who were embarking on the leadership camp on Mount Kinabalu when the 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck last Friday.
He said: "Everything around us was shaking and the ground was breaking apart."
Worried, the teachers told the pupils to huddle together and put their heads down.
As they did, boulders fell around them.
"Even the trees fell," said Tristan.
One of the trees trapped his friend, but she was rescued by a guide.
Luckily for him, he had only minor scratches from the falling boulders.
As the schoolboy looked around, he was shocked to see around five other schoolmates lying unconscious.
"Some of the pupils had blood on their faces," Tristan said.
Not too far from him was another TKPS pupil, Arnaav Chabria.
Arnaav said that everything happened so quickly that the only thing he remembered was seeing dust fill the air.
"My mind was blank," he said. "The next thing I knew, I was unconscious."
Arnaav blacked out for about 20 minutes.
When he regained consciousness, he realised his right arm was fractured.
"It was very painful," the Primary 6 pupil said.
A guide carried him down to the base of the mountain.
When The New Paper interviewed him yesterday, Arnaav had a cast over his right arm. He was still in a state of shock.
He said: "Even though I am relieved that I am back safe, I am still praying for the ones who are missing."
Tristan and Arnaav were paying tribute at a corner set up at TKPS for those who died.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also visited the school yesterday.
Team Singapore athletes competing in SEA Games rugby, dragon boat, netball, badminton and synchronised swimming also paid their respects.
Netball team members also attended the wakes of some of the victims.
Four of Tristan's classmates - Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, Peony Wee Ying Ping, Sonia Jhala and Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan - were among the six TKPS pupils who died in the quake.
Ameer was one of Tristan's best friends.
When Tristan heard about his death on Sunday, he burst into tears.
He said: "I spent most of my time in school with him. We ate and played together."
When school starts, things are going to be very different without his favourite playmate, said Tristan.
"I will feel very empty without Ameer."
The Primary 6 pupil recalled how Ameer, who he said was a talented footballer, introduced him to the sport two years ago.
Tristan held back his tears when talking about his other classmates.
"Peony always had a smile on her face," he said.
Sonia, said Tristan, was born a leader and was the positive energy of the class.
He said: "She was always the one encouraging us at times when we were about to give up on an assignment."
Even though Tristan did not know Rachel well, he said Rachel was bubbly.
"Even though some of my friends did not make it down alive, they will always have a special place in my heart," he said.