“River steamer sunk”, ran the headline in the South China Morning Post on May 11, 1927.
“Further details were gleaned yesterday of the collision which occurred on Monday night [May 9] in Capsuimun Pass between the launch Moonshine and the steamer Leung Kwong, in which a number of lives, at present unascertained, were lost,” the story continued.
The collision occurred when the boats were navigating the pass between Lantau Island and Park Island.
A report on May 12 stated, “A conservative estimate places the number of victims at seventy [...] Practically all the first class passengers were saved [...] the death toll is mainly confined to those [in] steerage.”
On May 13, more details came to light. “The moral of the tragic sinking of the steamer Leung Kwong […] is so painfully, distressingly obvious that it seems unnecessary to comment. Quite half of the deaths were due to the fact that the unfortunate passengers were trapped like rats by the locked grilles, designed but yet to win against pirates.”
It was not until June 9 that the death toll of 105 was confirmed, during the coroner’s inquest into where responsibility for those casualties lay. After hearing testimonies from survivors – including Li Hung, coxswain of the Moonshine; and master of the Leung Kwong, James Rudolph Wilson, 78 – the coroner, R.E. Lindsell, addressed the jury.
On July 6, the Post quoted Lindsell as saying: “You will perhaps have something to say about the fact of an apparently decrepit old man of 78 being in command of a vessel with accommodation on board for over 500 souls, a Captain who was not on the Bridge when his ship entered the dangerous waters.
“You will no doubt have something more to say about the grille since there can be no doubt that but for the locking of the steerage ladder grille on the Leung Kwong the loss of life would not have been so great.”
On July 11, the Post reported, “The inquiry [...] came to an end on [July 9], when the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against the Chinese pilot of the ill-fated vessel.” The charges were subsequently dropped.
Decrepit Wilson, the master, escaped with a reprimand.