Jury finds boy's death on dinghy was accidental

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am

Lessons must be learnt from sail training tragedy, parents say

The death of an 11-year-old boy who drowned after his dinghy capsized off Stanley was an accident, a coroner's court jury ruled yesterday.

The five-member jury recommended the government set up a centralised body to supervise the licensing of water sports centres to raise the level of safety.

Jonathan Chin Kin-chun drowned when a dinghy capsized during a water sports course on August 18, 2005. He was entangled by the vessel's trapeze wires.

During an eight-day inquest, the coroner heard no instruction was given to the participants - all aged between nine and 13 - on what they should do if a boat capsized.

The boy's parents, who lost their only child in the accident, expressed the hope that the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, which organised the course, the Sailing Federation and relevant government departments would learn from the tragedy.

'It is our sincere hope that we will all learn from this tragic accident and actively prevent this from happening to another family,' said a family statement released after the hearing.

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club commodore Harald Dudok van Heel said the club had stayed in touch with the deceased child's parents and had made an effort to enhance safety.

'We did an independent investigation after the incident ... and we have enhanced the mast flotation and removed the trapeze wires attached to the boats,' he said.

Mr van Heel said the multi-water sports course, which Jonathan had joined, had since been cancelled.

'We now only offer sailing courses and all students must be able to swim in order to take part,' he said.

In an earlier hearing, Richard Knight, former sail training manager of the club, said they only required participants of that course to be 'confident in water'.

However, Mr van Heel said they would continue to hire young sailing instructors as long as they were qualified with recognised bodies such as the Sailing Federation or the yacht club.

He was referring to the issue involving Natalie Kwan, who supervised the deceased and two other boys on the dinghy. She was only 17 at the time of the accident and had acquired her assistant sailing instructor qualification a month before the incident.

A spokeswoman of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it would study the jury's recommendations with relevant government departments.

Jonathan's dinghy capsized after encountering rough waves and strong winds. He was held underwater by the trapeze wires until he was freed by Marine Police. He was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital and was declared dead at 1.35pm.

A pathologist's report said he had drowned.