Spirits soar after chopper crash recovery

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am

Lily Fenn Kar-bak, Hong Kong's only female helicopter and fixed-wing pilot, was back at work yesterday 21/2 months after being injured in a helicopter crash - and with a nice Christmas present on the way.

'My back is still a little bit stiff, but I am in good shape now,' said the solicitor, who suffered a compression fracture of her spine. 'My doctor said I would be able to fly again in December. This is probably the best Christmas gift for this year.'

The 46-year-old was one of three people travelling in the chopper, which plunged to the ground shortly after taking off from Sai Kung to Kai Tak on June 11. The pilot was Matthew Chan, a partner in her law firm.

Mr Chan and another female passenger also suffered back injuries, and are still on sick leave.

Ms Fenn has spent the summer in physical training for recovery - including learning to walk again.

'In the first month, I could only make baby steps with the support of a walking frame because my upper body was so weak,' Ms Fenn said. 'But recovery has been fast because I have been doing weightlifting for more than 20 years. I still have to visit the clinic for physiotherapy three times a week though.'

She is grateful that her parents had not tried to discourage her from flying again.

'However, I'd rather not to be a passenger next time and fly the plane myself. If anything bad happens, it will be due to my mistakes, not someone else's.'

Ms Fenn has flown more than 500 hours in the past decade, taking to the skies twice a month.

The Civil Aviation Department will release a final report on the cause of the crash before next June.

Ms Fenn, who is also studying for a masters degree in aviation, said she was looking into the possible means of a legal challenge to Civil Aviation Department reports.

'For example, if the report is unfavourable to the victims, can they challenge the report in court?' she asked. 'These details will be crucial in the fight for compensation, which I am planning to do.'