LAST_UPDATESat, 21 Jul 2018 9pm

Man Holding A Baby Was Clinging On To Air-Cond Compressor During Fire - Witness

KUALA LUMPUR – A firefighter told the High Court today he saw a man clinging to an air-conditioning compressor's metal casing on the third floor of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre while holding on to a baby during the fire at the premises last September.

Muhammad Hafizmullah Muhd Nor, 30, who works at the Keramat Fire Station said at the time, he and his team comprising personnel on board a fire-engine had just arrived at the tahfiz centre, six minutes after receiving the distress call at 5.41am, Sept 14, 2017.

He said the fire was raging out of the windows on the third floor of the building, with the sounds of people shrieking coming from inside.

"At the time, it (the premises) was 70, 80 per cent burnt. I heard someone screaming for help near the edge of the top floor's window. We were there to carry out the (dousing) operation, but because someone called out for help, we performed the rescue first.

"The first one saved was a baby boy. There was a man holding the baby, clinging on to the metal casing and squatting on the compressor outside the window," he said, adding that his colleague named Osman placed a ladder near the compressor and brought the baby down, while the man climbed down the ladder himself.

The 20th prosecution witness said this during an examination-in-chief by Kuala Lumpur prosecution director Othman Abdullah, on the 8th day of the trial against two teenagers charged with killing 21 students and two wardens at the tahfiz centre.

Muhammad Hafizmullah said the man who was saved then told his team that there were three more individuals - a woman and two girls on the third floor - following which Osman went up the ladder again.

"Osman got back up and brought down a girl. After that, he (Osman) went up again, broke a door, and they (Osman, the woman and girl) all came down," he said.

After rescuing the five individuals, he said no more cries were heard, and he and another colleague proceeded to the third floor to douse the fire.

Muhammad Hafizmullah said once the fire had subsided, the turned on his torch to survey the dorm room and saw a skull.

"I thought it was an old cloth, there were corpses, skulls, I don't know how many," said Muhammad Hafizmullah, adding he then went down to report this to the operation leader, Suhaimi Abdul Shukor.

The witness said as soon as the forensics department had finished marking evidence at the scene, he and his colleagues were instructed to bring down the corpses using stretchers and placed them in a police truck.

Two teenagers who were 16 at the time of the incident were jointly charged with killing and causing the death of 23 residents at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre located on Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju, here between 4.15 and 6.45 am, on Sept 14, 2017.

They each face 23 counts of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code read together with Section 34 of the same Act, which provides for a mandatory death sentence, upon conviction.

Section 97 (1) of the Child Act 2001 states, however, that the death sentence cannot be imposed on juvenile offenders under the age of 18, but the court may imprison them for a time period determined by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, while Section 94 of the same Act also empowers the court to order the parents of the two teenagers to be penalised or to pay compensation.

The trial before Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah continues tomorrow.