FERRY DISASTER

Lamma ferry crash

Pain still runs deep over Lamma ferry disaster

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 3:54pm

A month after the Lamma ferry disaster killed 39 people, some of the victims' families, survivors and rescuers have described how the tragedy continues to affect their lives.

Ryan Tsui, whose younger brother Tsui Chi-wai, 42, and 10-year-old niece, Tsui Hoi-ying, died in Hong Kong's deadliest maritime accident in 40 years, said his family was struggling to come to terms with their loss.

Tsui's sister-in-law and her younger son survived the disaster, in which Hongkong Electric's vessel Lamma IV and the Sea Smooth ferry operated by Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry collided off Lamma Island on the National Day holiday on October 1.

"We all need time to overcome this. I hope everybody can return to normal lives as soon as possible," said Ryan Tsui, who was not on board the Lamma IV, the vessel which accounted for all the fatalities.

Tsui told the South China Morning Post he and his family hoped to find justice once the commission of inquiry submits its report on the crash, probably in six months' time.

Meanwhile, a Fire Services Department's diver, Hui Ka-chun, fireman Wong Tsz-kiu and ambulanceman Tsang Wai-kit spoke of the enormous pressure they had to face when making life-or-death decisions during the rescue operation.

Speaking on the online TV channel M21, Wong - among the first rescuers at the scene - recalled the agony of deciding whether to break the windows of the sinking Lamma IV. His superior officer was concerned this would allow in too much water and speed up the sinking.

"It was just a matter of seconds. But I thought rescue should come first. I would have regretted if I did not break the glass windows ... at that time I just wanted to save as many people as possible," he said.

Wong still felt uneasy about failing to save a girl after giving her first aid at the scene.

A woman, indentified only as Hebe, told the Post how her children, aged six and four, had been scarred by the crash. She said they were afraid to travel by plane or boat, which meant the family would not go abroad this Christmas holidays.

Police have taken more than 500 witness statements from the survivors of both vessels and rescuers from the disciplined services. They are also inviting maritime experts from Britain to advise them on their investigation, which is separate from the one by the government-appointed commission of inquiry.

It is understood that investigators aim to finish a report on any criminal liability involved in the accident by the time of the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

They will then submit their report to the Department of Justice to seek advice on whether to lay charges against the two captains and five crew members who were arrested shortly after the accident.

The seven are due to report to police again on November 27.

Video: "Hong Kong mourns Lamma ferry victims" by Jennifer Cheng and Helene Franchineau