Surveyor accused in building's collapse

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2012, 12:00am


A building surveyor who checked a To Kwa Wan tenement building two months before it collapsed in 2010 was cross-examined yesterday over whether he had followed government inspection guidelines properly.

Buildings Department surveyor Wan Chi-wai had misjudged the condition of the 55-year-old block at 45J Ma Tau Wai Road, which was already in a 'very, very dilapidated state' before repairman Chu Wai-wing started work on the day of the collapse, a defence lawyer told Kowloon City Court.

Wan countered that he had reminded Chu to get a qualified person to renovate the building.

Chu, 74, is accused of causing the deadly collapse on January 29, 2010. The repairman, who was hired by the block's owner to demolish an illegal structure on the ground floor, is charged with carrying out work in a manner that was likely to cause injury to people and damage to property. The incident killed four people.

Defence lawyer Kenneth Chung noted that Wan found the building did not pose an immediate danger when he conducted an inspection in November 2009.

He asked whether Wan had seen the department's manual for inspection and repair before he examined the block and wrote a report on it.

'I did not know about the manual until I was about to leave the posting,' Wan said. He was transferred away from his posting in To Kwa Wan about two weeks after the inspection.

'But I followed the format of my predecessors, which my boss accepted,' he said.

Wan maintained that he did not find the tenement block posed any 'imminent danger', although he observed cracks and exposed steel bars in some load-bearing columns. There was no sign of the block tilting or subsiding, he added.

The surveyor also said he had told Chu, who was with him during the inspection, to get a structural engineer to carry out large-scale maintenance instead of patchy repairs, and to install supporting structures before conducting such work.

Chu is the only person facing criminal prosecution after the Coroner's Court found last year that the deaths were accidental. The coroner said Chu's role was minor and Wan was 'wishy-washy' when checking the building.

The trial continues today.