15 hurt, one critically, as catamaran mows down boat and ferry hits cargo vessel

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am

Fifteen people were injured, one critically, in two collisions in the busy Adamasta Channel as fog blanketed Hong Kong waters early yesterday.

A small boat was cut in two when it was hit by a catamaran near Adamasta Rock off Cheung Chau at about 4am, pitching an elderly couple into the sea and leaving the man searching frantically for his unconscious wife for about 15 minutes.

About 90 minutes later a ferry bound from Cheung Chau to Central collided with a cargo vessel, injuring 13 people, none seriously.

Both collisions occurred in fog that cut visibility to as little as 350 metres yesterday morning.

The catamaran involved in the first collision had left the scene by the time marine police vessels arrived and an investigation has been launched into whether it was one of the fast ferries that run to the Cotai Strip gambling haven in Macau.

Po Lai-chong, 62, was in critical condition last night after the collision with the catamaran, which sailed over her 64-year-old husband, Keung Yuet-wah, as he floundered in the water. A brother said Mr Keung passed through the space between the ferry's two hulls. 'It was very dangerous,' he said.

Clinging to the wreckage, Mr Keung searched for 10 to 15 minutes before he found his badly hurt wife.

'The man grabbed his unconscious wife in one arm and held the dismantled sampan with another arm to stay afloat in water shouting for help until marine police launches arrived,' a police officer said.

The couple were taken on board a police launch and ferried to Cheung Chau, where Mr Keung was discharged from the island's hospital after treatment. His wife was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital and was in critical condition last night.

The Marine Department is investigating whether the CotaiJet catamaran CotaiGold was involved in the collision. A government source said it was found to have scratches on its bow after it arrived in Hong Kong.

An employee of Cotai Chu Kong Shipping Management, giving her name only as Lam, said the company would not comment.

If it is confirmed the CotaiGold was involved, it will be the fourth accident involving a CotaiJet vessel since July last year.

At about 5.30am yesterday the New World First Ferry catamaran First Ferry XI, carrying 130 passengers and four crew, collided with the 43-metre cargo vessel Xin Hui Ji 9 south of Kau Yi Chau.

'Most people were sleeping,' a passenger said. 'Some of them fell from their seats. Some suffered back injuries.'

Twelve passengers and one crewmember - eight men and three women - were taken to Ruttonjee and Queen Mary hospitals, where they were treated and discharged.

The ferry, with minor damage to its port-side railings, continued its journey to Central, arriving about 45 minutes late. A spokeswoman for the ferry company said the vessel was under repair at a dockyard in Cheung Sha Wan.

The mainland cargo vessel was holed above the waterline at the bow and did not take in water. No one on board was injured.

Marine Department deputy director Francis Liu Hon-por said visibility was poor because of fog when the accidents happened.

He said the department would look into whether the visibility and the speed of the vessels were to blame for the two accidents.