Speedboat not cause of injuries, inquest told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2007, 12:00am

Head injuries on a diver who drowned in Sai Kung last year could not have been inflicted by the speedboat suspected of hitting him while he was under the water, a government pathologist told an inquest yesterday.

Bjorn Lohse, 51, died in April last year in Lobster Bay at Sheung Sze Wan while diving from his boat Solitaire as a Zapcat - a small, high-powered inflatable speedboat - was crossing the bay.

Pathologist Ying Ho-wan told the court that Lohse sustained two cuts to his head, but that the rubber diving hood he was wearing had not been torn or damaged, indicating that he had not been struck by the hard or sharp surfaces on the Zapcat.

He said neither the boat's propeller nor engine fin, which would have been submerged in the water, were blunt enough to have caused the injuries without tearing the hood.

But coroner Josiah Lam Wai-kuen queried the pathologist's definition of 'sharp' and 'hard' and requested that the court examine the speedboat and its engine before coming to a conclusion.

The participants in the inquest will view the vessel at Hebe Haven next month and proceedings were adjourned until then. Diving experts stated that German-born Lohse's diving gear was not in perfect condition, with inexpertly repaired seams while part of the diving regulator was installed upside down.

A police statement given by diving expert Cheung Wai-keung, who examined Lohse's equipment, revealed the diver's oxygen tank was almost full.

The court heard from another diving expert, Paul Neilsen, that it was not standard practice under diving guidelines for Lohse to go underwater without a 'buddy' or flag to mark his location.

Instead Lohse had used a fender, or floating mark, to indicate his position. The court heard evidence from the speedboat's driver Mark Simpson who said he felt a 'tug' on his vessel's motor when he neared the marker.

Lohse had 25 years' diving experience but his family was unable to produce a PADI certificate for the court. His widow, Barbara, who was on board their boat while her husband was under the water, said Lohse had been searching for an outboard engine that had been lost on the seabed.

The case continues.