Inquest promised on MTR track death

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am

Family wins battle to have hearing into why elderly woman was struck by train

An inquest is to be held into the death of a 75-year-old woman on an MTR track after her family protested against a coroner's ruling.

Tao Mui was hit by an Island Line train after she wandered onto the track at the Heng Fa Chuen station on February 17. Her presence triggered a pressure pad alert as she entered the tunnel just before 7pm. Her body was found about three hours later.

Coroner William Lau Kui-po found the death was due to 'intentional self-harm' and dismissed the case without a hearing.

But the Coroner's Court ordered police to prepare a new report on their investigation after Tao's family, who are considering suing the MTR for contributory negligence, demanded an open hearing into the cause of her death.

The family questioned why she had been left to wander in a tunnel for at least two hours without more being done to find her.

The court has scheduled a closed-door pre-inquest hearing on January 16 to determine how to conduct the inquest.

A police spokeswoman said that the force had completed its investigation and that the judiciary had told it an inquest would be held, although an exact date had yet to be decided.

Tao's family welcomed the move yesterday.

Her fourth daughter, who would only give her name as Mrs Lau, said she had been notified by the Coroner's Court last month that an inquest would be held.

'I am happy that the court has made such a decision, despite a delay of nearly a year,' she said.

Lik Kwok-hung, in charge of police operations on the Island Line, said police had recommended another inquest. 'There are millions of passengers riding on the MTR every day, and we hope that by finding out the real cause it will help provide commuters with an even safer environment,' he said.

The MTR Corporation installed platform doors in 30 underground stations in 2006, but stalled on a decision to extend the programme to eight above-ground stations, including Heng Fa Chuen, citing technical problems.

On Friday, a spokesman said the MTR Corp had decided not to install platform doors in the above-ground stations because it would also involve putting in full air-conditioning systems and extensive rebuilding work in the stations.

'We have decided to investigate the feasibility of installing auto platform gates instead,' he said.

'The study is coming to its final stage and the results will be announced soon.'

The gates would be similar to those at Disneyland Resort station, running the length of the platform and sliding open and shut sideways, but only half the height of full platform doors.

An internal review of the MTR's emergency response systems commissioned after the accident would not be made public until the inquest was over, he added.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, said: 'I will ask the MTR to give us a full explanation of how this lady died and what action is being taken to prevent a similar accident happening in the future at our first meeting after the inquest has been completed.'

Albert Ho Chun-yan, a member of the panel's railways subcommittee, said he would ask its chairman to convene a public hearing on the MTR's report on auto platform gates as soon as it was complete and invite experts to give their views then.

'We are determined to ensure the public gets a proper platform safety system for above-ground stations, and we are going to be looking very closely at their reasons for switching to auto platform gates,' he said.