Irresponsible behaviour puts the lives of others at risk

The death of a firefighter during the rescue of two hikers highlights the risks inherent in activities we take for granted, and the need for participants to be mindful of those risks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 4:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 4:39am

The tragedy in which a veteran firefighter died while rescuing two hikers during bad weather on Wednesday is an occasion for sorrow and regret. As we pay tribute to principal fireman Yau Siu-ming and express our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues, it would be wise to reflect on the risks involved in activities that are often taken for granted. The incident is a sad reminder that some people’s irresponsible behaviour can put others in danger and even cost lives.

Memorial area set up at Sha Tin fire station to mourn Hong Kong fireman who died in clifftop rescue

The hikers prompted an overnight rescue operation involving some 250 officers after they strayed off the trail and became stranded in a treacherous part of the mountainous Ma On Shan Country Park. Yau was leading a search team in the early hours in the area, but lost his footing and fell off a steep slope. Foggy weather prevented helicopters from reaching the scene and Yau could only be winched away after more than 10 hours. He was certified dead after reaching hospital. An investigation has been launched by the Fire Services Department.

It does not take an expert to understand the risk of hiking during unstable weather conditions. The route in question is known to be rather challenging, even for experienced hikers. Rescuers had to hack their way through undergrowth and tackle slopes covered with bushes or loose, wet stones for hours in the search for the missing couple.

Questions have been asked why the pair – an off-duty police constable and an aviation security supervisor – had veered off the hiking trail and lost their way.

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The job of firefighter is one of the most dangerous, and there have been other times when rescuers have lost their lives in saving others. But the latest incident could have been avoided had the two hikers given more thought to the potential danger before setting off.

That it takes the loss of a precious life to tell a cautionary tale is regrettable. Those who indulge in water sports during typhoons or go hiking in treacherous weather would do well to think twice. Their behaviour is not just jeopardising their own lives, but also the safety of those who may need to come to their rescue.