Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Fugitive minibus driver captured at last

JAKARTA (JP): Ramses Silitonga, the driver of the Metromini bus which careened into a river here last March killing 33 passengers, has been captured.

The police announced yesterday that the suspect was captured in North Sumatra on Thursday afternoon after six months on the run. Ramses, 33, fled responsibility after the packed minibus he drove recklessly careened into the muddy and heavily polluted Sunter river along Jl. Yos Sudarso, North Jakarta, on March 6.

Ramses had reportedly changed his name into Ucok Sitompul before he was employed as a contract worker at a timber mill in Tanjung Mulia village in the Kampung Rakyat subdistrict, Labuhan Batu regency, North Sumatra, when he was captured by police officers at around 5 p.m.

"He is still being questioned in North Sumatra, and is scheduled to be transferred here today on the last flight," Brig. Gen. IK Ratta, spokesman for the national police, told reporters yesterday morning.

Ramses was reportedly driving at high speed in a race with other buses and lost control of his bus at a turn. The bus plunged into the river.

The accident killed 33 passengers and injured several others, while Ramses managed to save himself from drowning by escaping through the broken windshield. He had been in hiding ever since.

City police quickly formed a special team to hunt for him. National Police Chief Gen. Banurusman announced him a national fugitive, calling for police all over the country to jointly search for the driver.

Police managed to find his wife, Rusmaida Siahaan, last week after continuously keeping an eye on their elementary-school son who lived with his grandfather in Kebun Bawang district, North Jakarta.

During interrogation, Ramses related how, after getting out of the muddy river, he had stopped a taxi and rushed to the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital for medical treatment.

All his relatives rushed to the hospital and took him and his wife to the house of one of their friends, identified as Ah, who lives in Cengkareng district, West Jakarta. The couple stayed there ten days.

Ramses decided to return to his hometown of Siborong-Borong, North Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra, along with his wife. They left for Bandung by bus and stayed there several days to avoid police detection.


Leaving his wife alone in Bandung, Ramses took another bus to Bakauheni port in Lampung where he changed buses for Rantau Parapat in Labuhan Batu regency, North Sumatra, from where he proceeded to his hometown, Siborong-borong.

His relatives, who had learnt of his case through newspaper reports, advised him to hide himself in Labuhan Batu regency.

Ramses changed his name to Ucok Sitompul and worked as a daily contract worker at the timber mill PT Pemudjur in Tandjung Mulia. But police finally managed to track him down with the aid of tips from the public.

To ensure that the person they had tailed was the real Ramses, plainclothes officers approached him, calling him by his real name on Thursday afternoon while he was walking in the village.

Seeing "Ucok" respond by turning his head towards them, the officers quickly handcuffed him and took him to the Kampung Rakyat police station for interrogation.

Spokesman Ratta said his relatives had confirmed that it was Ramses that the police had captured.

Ratta criticized the lack of legal compliance of Ramses' relatives who harbored him instead of turning him in to law enforcers.

"We shall take appropriate measures to all people who harbored him," the spokesman said. (jsk)