Passengers tell of terrifying voyage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 May, 1998, 12:00am

THE impact tore through the cabin like a bomb blast. Passengers were hurled from their seats to the floor. Many immediately began scrambling for life jackets.

That was the frightening scene described by passengers aboard the Flores jetfoil when it crashed yesterday.

Chan Ngnor, 65, was in such a panic that she clung to her life jacket until she arrived at Tuen Mun Hospital.

'The accident came so suddenly. We were not warned. We didn't know our ship had hit something. We just heard the sound - like a big bomb explosion - and we were all thrown on to the floor,' she said.

'The cabin was in chaos. Some people screamed and others searched for life jackets. I followed suit and grabbed a life jacket.

'I thought the ship might sink. I thought I might die because I don't know how to swim.' Ms Chan, who suffered back injuries, had been on her way to visit relatives.

She complained the jetfoil had earlier been running slowly and appeared to have mechanical problems.

'Even before the accident the journey was not smooth,' she said. 'The ship stopped several times and was only just moving. Despite the problem, the captain continued. When we got near the Tsing Ma Bridge I heard some strange sounds from the engine. The ship had to circle in the water,' she said.

Macau tourists Peter Ho, 60, and his wife, 56, came to Hong Kong with their children on Friday and planned to visit Cheung Chau yesterday.

'But I changed my mind because of the bad weather. I decided to return to Macau with my wife. God knows, our last stop in Hong Kong was in hospital,' Mr Ho said. 'Most seats on the ship were broken. My wife and I hit a pillar in front of our seats during the accident, injuring our legs.

'I kept watching out the window and checking the water level. It is lucky our ship did not sink, or we might have died.' The captain offered no explanation, saying only that the ship had mechanical problems, he said.

The couple were treated and discharged but said they were uncertain when they would make their return journey, as they had to await clearance from immigration officials.

Another passenger, a Mr Lee who had been heading for Macau's casinos, said he was very unhappy.

'I might have been winning money at this moment if I had not travelled on this ill-fated ship. The company should compensate me for fouling up my chances of winning.'