200 stranded after jetfoil's engine fails

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 12:00am

Tempers rise after some passengers on the Macau-bound vessel fall ill

More than 200 passengers were stranded on a jetfoil for 2.5 hours after it broke down in rough seas off Lantau yesterday.

Tempers rose when around 20 passengers were sick as the Macau-bound jetfoil Guia rolled and pitched. Many apparently failed to use travel sickness bags.

Crew members initially refused demands to transfer those worst affected to passing ferries, saying it was too dangerous.

The Guia, which was hijacked by a gang in a $10 million robbery in 1995, came to an abrupt halt at 11.45am after suffering engine trouble.

The first announcement that the vessel had broken down was given by the captain at 12.20pm, when he said rubbish had been sucked into the engine.

'We may have to wait for a tug to pull us to Macau,' he said to a chorus of groans from passengers.

Passengers on the upper deck remained calm while those on the lower deck complained and asked for another vessel to be sent to take them to Macau.

One-and-a-half hours after the breakdown, one passenger rang police on his mobile after a female passenger from Hong Kong, travelling to Macau with her husband to celebrate her 51st birthday, fainted after vomiting constantly.

She was given assistance by the captain, two crew members and several passengers.

Crew members distributed free food and water after some passengers began seizing it from behind counters.

Two hours after the breakdown, a Macau tug and two Hong Kong police boats arrived, while a ferry stood by for about 50 minutes. Of the 208 passengers, nine from Hong Kong - five women and four men - asked to leave the boat immediately.

They were sent to the marine police base in Aberdeen. Two of the passengers, a 32-year-old man and 56-year-old woman, were treated at Ruttonjee Hospital.

'Why were the police informed so late and kept us waiting for two hours?' one passenger asked.

The remaining 199 passengers stayed on board the Guia for a further hour before being transferred to another jetfoil, the Madeira, which reached Macau at 4pm.

Most people disembarked after being given $100 coupons but about 20 remained at the terminal to seek higher compensation.