Tue, 04 Sep 2001

Tragedy strikes Jakarta family, neighborhood

JAKARTA (JP): For car mechanic Joko Priyanto, Sunday's fatal train accident in Cirebon stole his entire family except a daughter. The Kramat Pulo Gundul neighborhood in Tanah Tinggi District, Central Jakarta, is grieving the loss of six young men. Near Yogyakarta, a poor farming couple were buried without their daughters and a son even knowing of their deaths.

The story of Joko's three family members, the six young men from Kramat Pulo Gundul and the Yogyakarta couple are just some of the tragic tales suddenly being lived by relatives, lovers and friends of the 41 victims of the ill-fated Empu Jaya train.

The train was traveling from Jakarta to Yogyakarta when it slammed into a stationary locomotive at the Cirebon station in the early hours on Sunday.

Joko, 31, vividly remembers the last time he saw his 34-year- old wife Sartinah.

Her parting words at Jatinegara station on Saturday night were: "I won't be gone for long. I'll be back Monday," a crushed Joko recalled at his rented two-room house in a narrow alley off Jl. Arus Jati in Tanah Koja, East Jakarta.

Sartinah did return on Monday. In a coffin. As did the bodies of his sons, Firman Saleh Saputra (14) and Ilham Lintang Aldi (2).

Also killed in the crash was his brother-in-law Tarmun B. Tugimin (22), who was accompanying his sister and nephews on a trip to Karang Anyer in Central Java. They were taking Firman to Karang Anyer, where he was hoping to go to school and live with his auntie.

Things might have been different if Joko had won an argument with his wife.

Joko recalled how he insisted that they take the next morning's train because Empu Jaya was always crowded. "She refused. We even had an argument at the station," he said.

"We had a big party two weeks ago to celebrate her brother's wedding and Firman's circumcision. Now I have lost them," Joko said, breaking into tears as he remembered Ilham.

"I was still cuddling him two days ago," Joko said, showing a two-week-old photo of himself holding his youngest son.

Joko would have lost his entire family if his four-year-old daughter, Adela Citra Sari, had not insisted on staying behind with her father instead of joining the trip.

Although Joko was unsure about his plans for his daughter, he had turned down relatives' offers to take care of her.

"She's the apple of my eye, I don't want to part with her," Joko whispered while rocking Dela in his lap.

Sorrow also blanketed the Kramat Pulo Gundul neighborhood as they buried Fitri Azhari (18), Yudi Gepeng (22), Yudi Gomblong (25), Nugroho Sulistyo (18) and Ade Miftahul Choir (23).

They were among nine people from the neighborhood aboard the Empu Jaya on their way to a climbing expedition at Mt. Lawu on the Central Java-East Java border.

The three survivors -- Imam (25), Wawan (24) and Agus Muhammad Yusuf (20) -- were still being treated at a Cirebon hospital on Monday.

Nugroho's father Suharto said that, in retrospect, his son may have given a sign when he bade farewell on another one of his mountaineering expeditions, something he had been doing since his junior high years.

"Before he left, he told me that this would be his last mountain climbing expedition. And it was his last," Suharto said.

He described his son, who graduated from high school in May, as a good but shy boy who always understood his parents' financial difficulties. "He never asked for anything, even money," Suharto said.

Agus Muhammad Yusuf said there was no premonition when his son, Fitri, asked permission to go on a camping trip.

Sofiah, his mother, said Fitri was known as an outgoing person. "Everybody here knows him because he never hesitated to help others," Sofiah said.

Heart-broken and devastated, Sofiah refused to condemn anyone for the loss of her sixth of seven children.

But she implored state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api to improve safety.

"This type of accident must not happen again. Think about how devastated a mother feels when she loses her son," said Sofiah, holding back her tears.

Meanwhile in Wates, near Yogyakarta, the bodies of 57-year-old Amat Sopan and his 51-year-old wife Rubiyem were buried by their relatives, but not in the presence of their five children.

Three of the children are abroad and probably unaware of their deaths, while the remaining two were too distraught to attend the funeral at Tahunan public cemetery in the Kulon Progo Regency.

Their oldest son, Sudiman, had remained silent since their bodies were taken to the house in the morning, while their youngest son Hartono collapsed.

Neighbors said their second child, Sunarmi (26), is working in Taiwan, while their two daughters, Tri Muryani (21) and Waljinatun (19), are working in Malaysia.

The couple were poor farmers but managed to send their three daughters to work abroad, joining the hordes of Indonesian migrant workers.

"We haven't informed them about the accident. It's too costly and the news would probably be too shocking for them," said Sardal, a neighbor. (07/23)