Tearful vigil by mourning relatives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 January, 1993, 12:00am

MOURNING friends and relatives joined survivors of the New Year tragedy yesterday to mount a day-long vigil in Lan Kwai Fong, where 20 people had died just a few hours earlier.

Some of the 200-strong crowd were in tears, others dazed by the magnitude of the disaster that had befallen thousands of the territory's young as they celebrated the turn of the year.

A young woman, whose friend had died in the carnage, stood crying next to a tree that had been broken at its base, its two metal supports bent at nearly right angles by the force of the New Year revellers who surged down D'Aguilar Street just after midnight yesterday.

Mr Andrew Wong, owner of the Acropolis restaurant located at the intersection of Lan Kwai Fong, Wing Wah Lane and D'Aguilar Street, where many of the deaths occurred, burned a tiny pyre of incense on the kerb.

A group of young people, some wiping their eyes, left an offering of food and incense on the pavement.

Witnesses who returned to the scene recalled the previous night's horrors.

Mr Bruce Wynne from England recalled hearing screams and seeing people lying on the pavement ''with glazed expressions, like they had had the life kicked out of them''.

He performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on several victims.

''I think I lost one girl. I know I definitely saved at least three,'' he said.

The intersection was jammed with a ''solid mass of people in all four directions'' when, just after midnight, a ''mad charge'' of revellers went down Lan Kwai Fong, he explained.

There were several policemen near where the dead had been crushed, but the officers initially appeared oblivious to what was happening during the first, fatal minutes, he added.

''They didn't know what was going on. They just stood around like toy soldiers,'' Mr Wynne claimed.

''No matter how you tried, you couldn't get the attention of the police.'' Mr Jim Phillips saw the same chaotic scene.

''It was just really quick - lots of people getting crushed, people falling down, trying to get out,'' he said.

''Everyone was pushing on top and didn't know what was happening on the bottom.'' Hours after the stampede, crushed beer cans and foam canisters, and dozens of shoes torn off in the disaster, littered the streets.

Then, as the sun began to set, a water truck hosed down the pavements, washing away confetti and flowers that had been left in memory of the victims.

Some bars and nightclubs in the trendy nightspot remained closed last night in deference to the dead.

One onlooker, Mr Andrew Lee Yui-kwong, said he would stay away from Lan Kwai Fong during future holiday and festival nights.