Lamma ferry disaster
A boat owned by Hongkong Electric carrying more than 100 staff workers and their family members collided with a ferry in waters off Lamma Island at about 8.20pm on October 1, 2012. More than 100 passengers on the boat fell into the water. Thirty-nine people were confirmed dead after the accident. This is the deadliest boat accident in Hong Kong in 40 years.
Mother tells of 'miracles' that saved family as stricken ferry sank
Mother who slid down deck of sinking vessel, the Lamma IV, to grab lifebelts for her girls tells of 'miracles' that unfolded to save her family
A mother on board the Lamma IV with her family told last night of her life-or-death decision as disaster struck.
Hebe, 30, risked her own life by sliding down the slanted deck of the sinking vessel to grab two lifebelts to save her children.
But then an elderly woman asked her for one of them.
"I really hesitated," said Hebe, who was on her way back to the upper-deck cabin where her husband and daughters, aged six and four, waited.
"If I gave her one lifebuoy, I would have one less to save my daughters. In the end, I gave her one and went back to grab another. But by that time, the vessel had tilted more and I dropped into the sea."
Hebe made her dash down the deck against her husband's wishes and had to struggle to save her own life.
But she managed to help save others before learning hours later that the rest of her family had also survived the National Day collision between the Lamma IV and the public ferry Sea Smooth that claimed 38 lives.
She said her family was saved by a series of miracles.
After plunging into the sea, she found she was trapped underwater by a rope wound around her neck.
"I cried: 'Lord, save me'," the Christian woman, who did not want her full name published, said. "And after a while, the rope really unwound. So I swam up, but it seemed to take ages to get to the surface."
She then saved a struggling woman and her year-old son and helped them board a rescue boat. Meanwhile, the vessel had sunk into an increasingly vertical position in the water with her husband and daughters still trapped in the cabin.
The husband - who won a lucky draw with other Hong Kong Electric staff for the voyage to view the National Day fireworks - had time to untie only one of the tightly-attached safety vests from under the seats and gave it to his elder daughter, who knew how to swim, so he could concentrate on saving the younger child.
"I told my elder daughter, in case of danger and if Daddy could not be with her, I would let her swim by herself so Daddy could take care of younger sister," he said.
He said he and his children were sitting on one of only two rows of seats that were intact and out of the water. One row was on top of them, with two to three adults.
All the other rows of seats had broken free and were now under water. "When the vessel turned 70 to 80 degrees it was just like a domino effect - all the seats fell down."
He said the situation in the cabin was too horrible to recall. He placed his two daughters, who he said behaved very calmly, between his body and the seats to hold them firmly for 20 minutes before divers came to break the windows.
"I felt a bit anxious, yet peaceful at that time. I knew the Lord had arranged the seats for us. After a while, those seats also fell into the sea and we fell near the hole in the glass."
They had to struggle to get through the hole as many people were also fighting to get into the tight space. The daughters and their father were rescued separately by two boats. The family spent over two hours in three separate hospitals before learning they were all safe.
Hebe recalled that they were sitting on the deck when their vessel was hit by the ferry.
Many people fell down and were injured, including the younger daughter, whose nose and eyelids were bleeding.
The family then took refuge in the cabin, where, she said, the "miracles" started to unfold.