INQUEST | A firefighter on duty during the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots last November told an inquest today he had jumped off the fire truck and into the Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) van to hide from a rioter who had allegedly chased him.
In a state of panic, Mohd Hazim Mohd Rahimi, 32, said he entered through the van's sliding door and did not see whether his colleague, firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, had exited the van from the front passenger seat.
"Did you see Adib get down from the EMRS (van)?" asked inquest conducting officer Hamdan Hamzah.
"I did not," replied Hazim.
The firefighter is the sixth witness in the inquest to determine Adib's cause of death.
The fire truck and EMRS van had arrived on site at 1.12am on Nov 27 last year to put out a burning car. Previous witnesses in the inquest had testified that the firefighting team had encountered scenes of chaos, which eventually forced them to leave in less than 20 minutes.
Hazim said he was on duty that night as the "nozzle man," in charge of putting out fires, and had exited the fire truck and headed towards its back where the hose reels were kept.
"But before I managed to take out the nozzle, I saw a crowd from the direction of the temple surging towards the truck.
"I also saw someone coming to chase me... the rest who were armed were in front of the truck.
"Immediately I ran (away from the fire truck) and entered the EMRS (van). I opened the (sliding) door on its left, closed it, and lay down underneath a chair," said Hazim, who described the mob as having wielded sticks, helmets, a metal pole, and something that looked like a samurai sword.
Hazim told the Coroner's Court in Shah Alam he did not see Adib in the short time that he was outside the fire truck.
"If Adib was outside I would have recognised him because of our camouflage uniform," Hazim said, in response to further questions from the lawyer for Adib's family, Mohd Kamaruzaman A Wahab.
While hiding inside the EMRS van, Hazim said from his lying-down position, he could not see whether Adib was still in the passenger's seat or not.
To questions from lawyer Shazlin Mansor, Hazim said there was an "A4-sized hole with a sliding glass" that blocked his view of the van's passenger and driver seats.
"From the time you entered the van, could you see who was sitting in front?" asked Shazlin, to which Hazim said he could not.
Even under other ordinary circumstances, Hazim said one would have to press their face to the glass in order to see in front.
"When I entered in that chaotic state, it was impossible for me to see," he said.
During that time, Hazim said he felt the EMRS van turning around amid a din outside and banging sounds on its body.
"Two helmets were hurled into the EMRS, one through a side window and one through the back, shattering the glass," he said.
Previous witnesses in the inquest had testified how the fire truck reversed into the EMRS at its tail, forced the van to swerve, and in the process scraped several cars parked by the roadside.
Hazim in his testimony today said he did not think to lock the door upon entry and eventually saw it broke off as the van sped off towards the closest police station at USJ8. The broken door was later retrieved from the scene.
Hazim also said he remained hidden in the van until it arrived at the USJ8 police station, to the shock of his colleague driving the van, Ahmad Shahril Othman, who is also the inquest's third witness.