Victim of falling branch waiting for compensation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am


Life took a tragic turn for Wan Oi-lan a year ago when a falling tree branch struck her on the head. The 56-year-old has been declared mentally disabled and can no longer take care of her 12-year-old son or venture out of her housing estate by herself.

To makes matters worse, she says the government departments concerned have taken little interest in her plight or her pleas for compensation.

Wan was walking to market when the accident happened on November 8, 2010.

She stopped to rest under a tree, and 10 minutes later a 5cm-thick branch fell on her head. She lost consciousness briefly and was rushed to Tuen Mun Hospital.

Wan was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, declared 99 per cent mentally disabled and now relies on more than 10 types of medicine to get through her days.

'I have been unable to sleep. I can't walk too far because I could faint in the middle of a long journey. I can't even cook and take care of my son. It's miserable.'

Her son, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has since been moved into a dormitory operated by the Society of Boys' Centres.

'I just want to do my job properly as a mother,' a tearful Wan said. 'Once I wanted to jump out the window but my son grabbed my legs and told me not to. If it had not been for him, I'd be dead.'

Wan's accident happened in Tuen Mun Park, which is managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. But her requests for compensation went unanswered for months.

'They're callous,' Wan said.

Only after she complained to the Ombudsman in November did department officials meet her.

'After that, there was no follow-up,' Wan said. 'They refused to look at my medical records after the incident. I don't know what they are up to. After the accident I could hear people talking around me although I had lost consciousness, and I know the department staff took photos of the fallen branch. They must know the accident really did happen.'

She also sought help from the Legal Aid Department, but it decided her case was not strong enough to launch a lawsuit, as she could not find any witnesses.

'It was a fine day when the branch fell, no rain, no typhoon,' Wan said. 'Shouldn't they launch an investigation to see how they can better manage the trees?

'It's a shame. Another branch could hit someone.'

Department officials said staff members had met and talked to Wan. They received a formal claim from her in December and the department was now processing the claim. It would offer assistance to Wan as appropriate.