We weren't told how to sail dinghy, boys tell inquest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

Their life jackets were not inspected for proper fit before fatal capsize off Stanley

Two boys who were on a sailing course with another who drowned when a dinghy capsized off Stanley told a coroner yesterday they had been given no instructions on how to sail the boat or what to do if it turned over.

The pair, Anthony Bunker, 11, and Hugo Manning, 10, also said no one had physically inspected their life jackets or made sure they were the right size for them before they set sail on August 18, 2005.

They were giving evidence at the inquest into the death of 11-year-old Jonathan Chin Kin-chun, who was trapped underwater by trapeze ropes and drowned during a water sports course offered by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

'No one gave me an introduction on how to use those boats,' Hugo said. 'We were not assigned any duties. It was [the instructor] who gave instructions on the spot.'

The pair and the boy who died were supervised on the dinghy by the club's assistant sailing instructor, Natalie Kwan, who was 17 at the time.

Ms Kwan will testify later.

Anthony said no instructor had taught them any sailing safety guidelines and he did not see any instructors checking Jonathan's life jacket or his own.

He told the coroner he saw Jonathan's life jacket slip off when Ms Kwan tried to pull him up after the boat capsized.

The club's sail training manager, Richard Knight, who designed the five-day water sports course, said its purpose was to give the children a fun week on the water and to introduce them to different boats and water sports.

'It was not a syllabus course. We do not require them to sit in a classroom and do the theory,' he said.

'The activities were mostly simple. The instructors would teach them how to sit and how to hold on with short instructions.'

Mr Knight said the course, designed for children aged from nine to 13, was on offer from 1999 and it did not require participants to know how to swim.

'Knowing how to swim was not a prerequisite,' he said. 'The only requirement was that they felt they were competent on water.'

He also said physical checks on the participants' life jackets might not be necessary. 'If the students had picked up the wrong size, it would be quite obvious. We normally expect the instructors to do a visual check instead.'

Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu and the jury will visit the scene of the tragedy at Stanley tomorrow.

The dinghy capsized when it encountered stronger wind and rougher sea on the way from Middle Island to Stanley.

Jonathan was entangled by the trapeze rope and held underwater until he was dragged free by Marine Police.

He was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital and was declared dead at 1.35pm. A pathologist's report said he had drowned.