Repair man officials tried to blame for collapse has a clear conscience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am


Yesterday was just another day for Chu Wai-wing, the repair man government officials accuse of triggering the deadly collapse of the tenement in To Kwa Wan.

This was despite it being the day for the delivery of a coroner's verdict in one of the most closely followed public inquests in recent years.

'Why should I feel relieved? I know justice will be upheld at the end,' said Chu when told about the verdict.

In the end, the coroner - disputing the version of events put forward by the Buildings Department - said Chu had only a minor role in causing the collapse, and delivered verdicts of accidental death on the four tenants killed.

'The verdict was exactly what I expected,' Chu, 75, said.

Sitting on a white plastic chair in his 200 sq ft flat, the handyman said he had been buying six newspapers every day to keep track of the inquest.

He repeated that he felt nothing, and was innocent.

'Long before the accident and the repair works, I had told [Chak Oi-luen, the building's owner] it was about to collapse but she ignored everything I told her,' he said, repeating what he had told the coroner. 'She just did not seem to bother.'

A contractor without qualification, he was hired by Chak to do repair work over several months before the collapse. Chu said he had noticed the building was falling apart very slowly.

He continued maintenance work in the hope of saving it.

'I did not do anything wrong.' he said. Hours before the collapse, he instructed another worker to cut three iron bars which were part of an illegal extension on the side of a building and remove a false ceiling.

When the building collapsed, he said, 'I stood right across [the road] watching it. It was not terrifying at all. I knew long ago the collapse would soon take place.'

Chu, now retired, worked as a repair man for more than 50 years. Last year, following the accident, he shut down his construction company because he was losing his old customers.

'I wanted to take a long break,' he said.

The inquest has now come to an end but the contractor could still face charges from the Buildings Department because the work he carried out on the illegal structure was unauthorised and caused injury to people and damaged property.

Asked if he was frustrated with accusations from the Buildings Department, he said: 'No, anger cannot stop officials from talking bull***t.'

'If they [the Buildings Department] want to sue me, go ahead. Let's see who will win at the end.'

Former tenants were upset by the verdict and did not rule out filing a civil lawsuit against the landlady and Buildings Department.

'As former neighbours, we should be united,' said Lee Siu-mui, one of the residents. 'The judgment is unfair to the deceased. We'll take some time to read through the verdict and decide what comes next.'