Storm drain horror as worker swept to death

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 June, 2011, 12:00am


A worker died after he was swept away in a torrent of water as he inspected a storm drain during heavy rain early yesterday.

Fung Cheung-yau, 61, was carrying out an inspection with a surveillance camera in the drain beneath Kin Chuen Street, Kwai Chung, at about 2am when he was washed away.

He was attached to a lifeline but his workmates were unable to pull him back through the metre-wide pipe against the force of the water.

The married father-of-two was found unconscious in the water by divers from the Fire Services Department who were called in at about 2.20am.

They pulled Fung out of the drain through another manhole in Castle Peak Road but he was pronounced dead in hospital.

'Our divers had to search in darkness in the drain that was filled with water,' a fire officer said.

'After searching for about 10 minutes, the unconscious victim was found immersed in water, about 20 metres away from the manhole he entered.'

Relatives and a workers' rights group demanded to know why Fung was allowed into the drain in heavy rain, and less than an hour before an amber rainstorm warning was issued at 2.50am.

An official inquiry has now been launched by the Drainage Services Department into whether safety procedures were followed and weather risks properly assessed.

Fung, who was employed by Welfrey Engineering, a subcontractor of Sun Fook Kong (Civil) working for the Drainage Services Department, is survived by his wife and two sons aged 20 and 23.

One of his sons said his father's colleagues had told him they were unable to pull him out because of the strong currents.

'I don't want such an incident to happen again,' he said.

The Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims said workers should not be sent into a confined space in bad weather conditions, and the incident showed the Drainage Services Department had failed to monitor its contractor's work properly.

The department said it was investigating whether the contractor had assessed the risks carefully before sending Fung in to check the drain, and whether he was equipped with all the necessary safety gear.

'We have to look at the record of rainfall distribution to see whether the contractor took into account the risks,' assistant director of drainage, Chan Pak-keung, said.

Under safety guidelines, workers cannot be sent into a confined space during bad weather such as an amber, red or black rainstorm warning. But Chan said the department did not have 'across-the-board bans' on carrying out work during rain.

He said the department would be investigating the incident along with the Labour Department and would learn from any mistakes.

Last night, a spokesman from Sun Fook Kong said an ex-gratia payment of HK$467,120 would be issued to Fung's family.