Jetfoil hit wreckage after captain took an old route

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 March, 1999, 12:00am

A jetfoil accident that left one person dead and more than 100 injured happened on a route being used for the first time in three years, an inquest heard yesterday.

Macau-bound jetfoil Flores had taken an old route because strong head winds along the regular route prevented it from accelerating, its captain told the Coroner's Court.

Ten minutes after leaving Victoria Harbour on May 2 last year, the back of the Far East Jetfoils vessel hit the tip of a shipwreck while travelling at 40 knots.

Captain Choi Chee-kit said the wreck was about 370 metres from the position indicated on the sea chart.

Fisherman Chan Ma-sing described the wreck, which lay in mainland waters, as sticking 60cm to one metre out of the water.

It had not been marked by a beacon for four or five years, he said.

Survivor Cheung Chi-ngai said she heard a 'great bang'.

'I woke up lying on the floor with a terrible neck pain . . . feeling as if something had been broken.' She saw her husband 'lying very far ahead . . . with lots of people on top of him'.

Another survivor, Dr David Anderson, said people had been hurled into seats two rows in front.

'Seats at the back were literally wrenched out,' he said.

Both Ms Cheung and Dr Anderson said they did not hear any instructions from crew members to put on seat belts during the trip.

Witnesses said the crew made no announcements to passengers and cabins were filled with chaos and people crying and screaming.

'Fifteen minutes after the accident on the lower deck still no one was wearing seat belts and very few were wearing life vests,' Dr Anderson said.

He asked a cabin attendant to bring a first-aid kit but the attendant returned empty handed.

Dr Anderson said he examined Wan Yuen-lan, 77, and suspected she had a fractured skull. She was airlifted to hospital but died two days later.

Dr Anderson said that when a helicopter arrived after 45 minutes there was no one to direct crew to the seriously injured. The arrival of the helicopter crew caused more panic in the cabin, he said.

The inquest continues before Coroner Paul Kelly.