News of Dr Sam Walton's dangerous crash into the forest reaches Ministry of Works
News of the dangerous Batu Kapal road that ends in the forest has reached the Ministry of Works.
Minister of Works Datuk Fadillah Yusof said in a tweet to JKR Terengganu, JKR Malaysia and SAYS that safety of public must be put first all the time.
In a back and forth tweet between JKR Malaysia and Yusof, JKR was seen reporting to the minister that a road closure sign has been installed and a permanent guardrail is also under works. Yusof also instructed JKR to make sure that the road closure sign is visible at night.
At the same time, Dr Sam Walton replied to JKR Terengganu requesting for reflectors to the added to the barriers.
Today, JKR Malaysia informed SAYS that reflective signages are being installed. A permanent dead-end sign has also been erected.
Secretary General Ministry of Works Dato' Sri Zohari Akob has congratulated JKR for their swift action.
28 Feb: JKR's explanation on why they built a road to nowhere puzzles UK professor
Jabatan Kerja Raya (JKR) has responded to SAYS about the immediate action that they have taken to make the Batu Kapal road safer. In a Facebook comment, JKR Corporate Communication says they have erected warning signs and plastic barriers at the location. Moving on, they will be installing a permanent sign board to inform motorists of the road closure.
According to Dr Sam Walton, JKR has also replied him with an explanation of why the perplexing road ends abruptly in a forest reserve. Hafizulazrin bin Hassan from JKR Hulu Terengganu said in a short email that the T177 road is a state road. It was supposed to end at Batu Kapal, which is a tourist destination, but due to constraints of resources the road ended 1km away from it.
SAYS secured a copy of the official complaint that was sent to the Terengganu state JKR. It was revealed that construction of the road started on 15 December 2008 and was completed on 9 September 2010. The road was contracted by the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, with JKR Terengganu leading the project and JKR Hulu Terengganu as the on-site officer.
JKR also proposed a long-term solution for the road to be connected to the Batu Kapal tourist destination.
"Apparently Batu Kapal was actually designed to be a "tourist trap" in the first place," says Dr Walton says.
However, he is perplexed that the road was just left unfinished for five years. "Seems like they're doing something about it now at least."
26 Feb: A professor from UK and a group of international academics narrowly avoided death after driving on a road in Terengganu that ended abruptly at a forest with no warning
Dr Sam Walton, a research lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) was driving a party of prominent academics to Tasik Kenyir at 10pm on 16 February 2015 when he took a wrong turn and ended up on a main road signposted "Batu Kapal"
It was smooth driving all the way on the well-constructed main road until it ended abruptly, with no warning signs, in a forest reserve area. The main road turned about to be an unfinished or abandoned road.
With no street lamps, slow signs, barriers nor reflectors, Dr Walton was not able to see the end of the road in the darkness of the night
He could not stop his Mitsubishi Pajero in time. The car hit a ditch, careered into the jungle, and carved out a chunk of the hillside before stopping. The group narrowly avoided a fatal crash into a tree.
The group was lucky to escape unhurt, but they were traumatised and stranded in the middle of nowhere
The next morning, Dr Walton returned to the crash site to retrieve his car. To his surprise, word of the crash had gotten out overnight and a surprising number of locals were gathered there, ready to help.
"The car had crashed into the earth and surrounding vegetation. The impact of the crash left a big ditch for the car to cross back to the road. There was absolutely no way to get the car out by reversing, towing or winching, we had to get a wheel loader."
With prompt help and kindness from the local villagers, Dr Walton was able to quickly find a contractor who was willing to help.
"A friend and I drove into a nearby town where we found a construction site. My friend, Professor Reuben Clements asked the site foreman if he could get us a wheel loader and he made a phone call. By the time we returned to the crash site, the driver was already filling in the ditch between the road and the car. After that, he hitched a tow rope onto my car's tow bar and started to drag my car out of the forest."
A crowd of locals helped Dr Walton to change the passenger side tyre that was now blown, but the replacement tyre also blew out on the way to a garage as the alignment was badly damaged.
"We were left stranded on the side of a rural road. After a while, a nice man in a minibus pulled over and gave us a ride to Kuala Berang where we could find a tow truck. We spent the rest of the day tracking down a tow truck and recovering my car for the second time."
According to locals, this was the sixth accident to have occurred at this very spot. However, the authorities have yet to implement any preventive measures.
"This not only represents extreme negligence but also demonstrates the sustained ignorance and incompetence of local authorities, and a complete disregard for public safety," says Dr Walton
"The road is signposted "Batu Kapal" on an official blue signboard, it's not been taped over or blacked out to indicate there is nothing at the end of the road. There are no dead-end signs along the road at all to give drivers some warning. There are no slow signs, no lines on the road or other markings to give drivers notice, and last but by no means least there are no barriers, lights, signs or even simple reflectors at the end of the road, making it impossible to see the road's end at night," Dr Walton told SAYS.
In a complaint letter to the Public Works Department (JKR), Dr Walton says deaths are guaranteed if the road remains like this
"Apparently your organisation didn't feel the need to make drivers aware of the abrupt stop in a forest reserve area that awaits them at the end of the unfinished or abandoned road."
Besides urging JKR to install accident preventive measures, he is also seeking the department to bourne the RM5,000 cost of recovering his car from the crash
"Whilst the main objective of this letter is to ensure that accident prevention measures are put in place to prevent future fatalities, this accident has personally cost me approximately RM5,000... Please can you at least compensate me for the costs incurred during recovery and repair following the crash. I won’t ask for compensation for the stress and trauma my passengers and I have been subjected to as long as my immediate shortfall is offset."
Dr Walton, who has worked in Terengganu for over a year, says he wants JKR to take responsibility because he cares about the image of Terengganu. "This pointless and dangerous road to nowhere with no purpose or accident prevention measures is frankly ridiculous and very embarrassing."
"I think it's important as this road is bloody dangerous! And there are many roads like this that are just ignored and forgotten.
My guests, who happen to be prominent foreign academics, probably left the area with the perception that Terengganu is a bit of joke. How can we expect to appeal to visitors if this is the example we demonstrate?"
To add salt to the wound, his favourite fishing rod was stolen from his car when it was left overnight in the forest
"I guess I should be grateful that this is the worst thing that happened, but I loved that damn rod!"
JKR has responded to Dr Walton's complaint letter, saying that they are investigating the matter
In an email reply to Dr Walton's complaint letter, JKR response was:
"We are very sorry for what had happened to you and your friends. We are doing our investigation and at the same time will take necessary action to it.
Your's Sincerely, Hafizulazrin bin Hassan JKR Hulu Terengganu (Road Section)."
Dr Walton has been told not to expect a response, but he is keeping his fingers crossed. He explains that if people don't make a complaint because of the perception that the authorities don't care, it would only breed complacency.
"I had been told not to expect a response, but I wanted to give the JKR a chance before I make my judgement. I think there is a perception here that the authorities don't care so people perhaps don't complain when they should. This kind of perception is just as damaging to society as the lack of authority action as it breeds complacency. If people don't complain because they have no faith it'll work, then how can the authorities asses their performance?"
With the support of UMT behind his back, Dr Walton sees it as his duty to influence the authorities to put in effort and make our roads a safer place