Cheerful TKPS pupil was a livewire
Tributes pour in as remaining two missing Singaporeans are confirmed dead
He was a small boy with a big personality.
Friends described 13-year-old Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar as a firecracker with an unmistakably boisterous laughter.
Sadly, after being reported missing for five days, the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupil was confirmed dead yesterday morning.
TKPS teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, who was also reported missing, was also confirmed dead.
Both were climbing Mount Kinabalu when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on Friday morning.
The news was a heavy blow to five fellow TKPS pupils who went on the same school trip as Navdeep.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, they all said Navdeep had left an indelible impression on them in the short time they had known him.
Arnaav Chabria, 11, said: "For the past few days, I've been praying and hoping that Navdeep was still alive.
"I cried when I heard the bad news."
The Primary 6 pupil added that Navdeep was popular in school and had plenty of friends.
"He's extremely well-liked. Everywhere he goes, people will say 'hi' to him.
"He's always trying to make people laugh and motivating them when they're feeling down.
"I'll miss the joy that he brings to people the most."
Raeka Ee, 12, added: "I was so shocked. Even though we only met at the start of the year, I'll miss him a lot."
Navdeep was a born leader who commanded respect, said Raeka.
"Everyone listened to him when he talked.
"When we were climbing stairs to train for the trip, he would encourage us not to give up when we were tired.
"He was like our cheerleader."
Twelve-year-old Jayden Francis' fondest memory of Navdeep was that of his booming voice filling the bus during their trip in Malaysia last week.
Jayden said: "I was sitting at the back of the bus, but I could hear him cracking jokes and laughing throughout the trip.
"He was a very joyful and happy person."
Navdeep's jokes will also be missed by Tristan Wing, 12.
Tristan said: "His jokes never failed to lift our spirits.
"His soft and deep laughter was infectious and would cheer us up when we were feeling tired or sad."
As for Ashley Lim, 11, Navdeep's death meant more than just the loss of a schoolmate.
She had regarded him as a big brother because he was older than her.
She said: "When I was bored, I'd talk to him about nonsense and he'd be my listening ear.
"He also helped me whenever I had trouble with my maths homework.
"I don't have an older brother so I treated him as one."
On Saturday, Navdeep's elder sister posted on Twitter that she was praying for a miracle.
Navdeep's father died two years ago and his sister wondered how her mother would handle the news if Navdeep did not survive, The Straits Times reported.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said yesterday that Navdeep's and Mr Ghazi's next-of-kin have been informed of their deaths and have asked for privacy while they grieve.
MOE said: "Their remains will return to Singapore upon completion of further forensic tests. This is expected to take some time.
"We will continue to provide support to the families during this difficult time."
Everyone listened to him when he talked. When we were climbing stairs to train for the trip, he would encourage us not to give up when we were tired. He was like our cheerleader.
- TKPS schoolmate Raeka Ee
Identities confirmed through fingerprints
The identities of the two missing Singaporeans - Mr Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, and Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar, 13 - were confirmed through their personal belongings and fingerprinting.
According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Sabah authorities confirmed their identities after receiving their fingerprint records provided by the Singapore Police Force.
With the latest confirmation, 10 Singaporeans - seven pupils and two teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), and an adventure guide who accompanied them - have died in the disaster, which killed 18 people.
"The remains of Ghazi and Navdeep are still undergoing DNA testing, and will be returned to their families once the DNA results are confirmed," said MOE.
In a Facebook post at around 4pm yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "relieved yet saddened" that the remains had been identified.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time," he wrote.
Mr Lee also thanked the Malaysian government, Sabah officials, the mountain guides and many other Sabahans for their "extraordinary and deeply appreciated efforts" in helping the victims.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post yesterday: "We know now that Navdeep and Ghazi are at peace.
"I talked with their families... and it was so clear that Ghazi and Navdeep have inspired so much love and brought so much joy to those around them. We all grieve with their families."
He added that he had asked his team to extend the hours of the tribute site at TKPS, which will be open from 10am to 9pm today.
It will be the last day for tributes.
29 students and eight teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) were on a leadership camp when the 6.0-magnitude quake struck the 4,095m-high mountain. Rocks and boulders rained down on them as they traversed the mountain at Via Ferrata, a route along the rock face.
Seven pupils and two teachers from TKPS, and a Singaporean adventure guide who helped the pupils were killed.