Ferry crash at cheung chau leaves 76 hurt

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am


A ferry crashed into a concrete mooring pillar in Cheung Chau typhoon shelter yesterday, injuring 76 people.

The vessel, operated by New World First Ferry, was seriously damaged and was left with a large hole in its bow.

The accident happened at 5.17am, about five minutes after the double-deck catamaran, First Ferry IX, carrying 140 passengers and four crew members, left Cheung Chau ferry pier for Central.

It hit the pillar about 400 metres from the pier.

One man said: 'It happened suddenly. I was hurled forward, hitting the back of the seat in front. People were hurled to the floor from their seats shouting for help and some chairs were bent.'

Another man said: 'A lot of injured were lying on the floor and bleeding from their heads and noses.'

The most serious injuries were suffered by three passengers, aged 70 to 82, who were all from the same family.

A woman with injuries to her mouth found her mother, uncle and aunt on the floor near the gangplank.

The three elderly passengers were airlifted to Eastern Hospital, where they were said to be in a serious condition. 'It was chaotic. No sailors came to help. We had to help each other,' the woman said.

Six others were stable in Queen Mary Hospital last night. The rest were discharged after treatment.

The captain, who suffered minor injuries, has been suspended. He said the ferry was moving to the right to avoid hitting a navigation light buoy. He said there was no lighting on top of the mooring column. 'When I saw it, I immediately reduced speed but the vessel still rammed into the concrete column.'

Five fireboats, 18 ambulances and 13 fire engines arrived at the scene, with 120 firefighters and paramedics in attendance.

The Marine Department said an initial investigation revealed the ferry 'strayed outside the navigational fairway into a mooring area'.

It found the light beacon nearest to the mooring pillar was lit and functioning properly in accordance with the nautical chart.

It said in a statement: 'The investigation into the incident will pay special attention to the speed of the First Ferry IX at the time of the collision.'

The maximum speed limit in the typhoon shelter is five knots.

The ferry company said the captain had been steering the route between Central and Cheung Chau and was familiar with the area.

The damaged ferry, an eight-year-old catamaran, passed a routine inspection last month.

It was towed to a shipyard in Cheung Sha Wan.