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Crash victims’ stories emerge

December 22, 1997 GMT

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Bonnie Hicks’ pixie-like face smiled from The Sunday Times lifestyles section. A well-known model and author, Hicks penned a column on the brevity of life just before she was killed.

Hours after the article was printed Friday, the 29-year-old Singapore woman and her American boyfriend were killed on SilkAir Flight MI185 when it crashed Friday en route from Jakarta to Singapore.

None of the 104 passengers and crew members survived.

Under the headline ``Goodbye my Gran, my friend, my mentor,″ Hicks wrote about the death of her grandmother:

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``The brevity of life on earth cannot be overemphasized. I cannot take for granted that time is on my side _ because it is not. Granny’s death has put that sharply into focus.

``I was fortunate to have been able to show her how much I loved her. Now I will show my family too how much I love them. Heaven can wait and I cannot.″

Hicks and Richard Dalrymple, whose hometown was not immediately known, had planned to celebrate her 30th birthday Jan. 5 in Hawaii.

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The missing included five members of the same family _ businessman Liauw Ali Gunawan, 37, his mother, wife and two daughters _ who were flying to Singapore for the wedding dinner of his younger sister.

A sister-in-law said she had planned to be on the same plane with her two sons, but her husband booked them on an earlier flight.

The sister’s wedding was scheduled for Christmas Day.

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Soen Lay Heng, 41, had developed a phobia of flying after being aboard Singapore Airlines Flight SQ117 when it was hijacked after leaving Kuala Lumpur and forced to land in Singapore in 1991.

The four hijackers, demanding the release of detainees in Pakistan, were killed when air force commandoes stormed the plane. No passengers were injured.

This time, Soen, a businessmen, had just clinched a $100 million deal in Jakarta and was heading home to Singapore en route to San Francisco to join his wife and three children, ages 5 to 12, on vacation.

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Yee Pui Leng, Koh Poh Kwee and Tan Chay Hoon were teachers at Singapore’s Fairfield Methodist School. Close friends who shared school meals and holidays, they went to Indonesia for a week’s vacation.

But they cut it short by a day when they heard a 33-year-old colleague, Soon Ching Lin, had died of a heart attack. They wanted to be back for the funeral Sunday.

At the school Saturday, teachers, board members, students and former students wept and talked about losing four teachers in a week.

``We were first shocked by Mrs. Soon’s death,″ said Principal Tang Poh Kim. ``And now another three.″

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The pilot, Capt. Tsu Way Ming, 41, once flew with The Black Knights, the Singapore Air Force aerial acrobatic team of A-4 Super Skyhawks.

Only top pilots with a minimum of 1,000 hours on a fighter aircraft are selected for the Black Knights. He and five squadron mates had made more than 300 flights.

He joined the air force in 1975, rose to the rank of major and also served as a flight instructor. By the time he joined SilkAir four years ago, he already had clocked more than 4,000 hours of flight time, which had risen to 6,900 at the time of the crash.

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Many Singapore commuters had seen the face of 19-year-old SilkAir flight attendant Syaibani Shaik Hassan _ she was among four models pictured on a special souvenir ticket being sold by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Her photograph also appeared on a Singapore Tourism Board calendar.

Her uncle died of a heart attack four days before the crash.