KAMPAR, 27 Oct 2009: Between 30 and 50 pupils were on a newly-built suspension bridge when it collapsed last night into the swift-flowing Kampar River at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kuala Dipang near here, causing one pupil to drown and two more to go missing.
A pupil, K Mathivanan, 12, who held onto a rope and saved himself, said the bridge collapsed suddenly, at about 10.30pm.
He said there were about 30 to 50 pupils on the bridge then, some walking to the school for their dinner and others returning to the campsite.
He said the bridge had swayed a lot before it collapsed as several pupils were jumping about and playing with one another.
“All of a sudden, we found ourselves thrown into the river. I managed to hold on to a rope. The current was swift but I managed to drag myself out of the water,” he said.
Mathivanan said joy turned to panic as many of the pupils started screaming for help while others just cried.
He was one of the 298 pupils from 60 primary schools in Kampar, Tronoh and Batu Gajah who were to have begun a 1Malaysia Camp co-curriculum activity organised by the Kinta Selatan District Education Department there.
The bridge, above 50 metres long, was built about two weeks ago to replace an old one which had collapsed, said a member of the school’s Parent Teacher Association.
The bridge links the campsite to Sekolah Kebangsaan Kuala Dipang where dinner was held for the pupils.
A teacher, Mohd Safri Abdul Rafar, said he was not far from the bridge when it collapsed and quickly jumped over a fence and dived into the river in an attempt to rescue the pupils.
“I managed to pull out three or four pupils. The current was swift and I almost got dragged away,” he said.
Safri, who is from Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Tronoh, said he went into the river again and pulled out five more pupils.
A guard of the school, who identified himself as Idris, said he pulled out six pupils from the river.
Safri said he was sad that he could not rescue a pupil who had held onto a metal cable before being dragged away by the current.
Twenty three teachers are involved in the camp, the second to be organised by the Kinta Selatan District Education Department after the first one at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pos Raya last week.
Similar camps were to be held simultaneously today in the Larut, Matang, Selama and Manjung districts, said Safri. He added that the camp’s aim was to foster unity and interaction through activities such as traditional cooking, culture and games. — Bernama