Lamma ferry crash

Harrowing memories continue to haunt ferry disaster survivors

Recipients of awards for heroism recall having to make life-or-death decisions amid the chaos

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 5:43am

Two months after two vessels collided off Lamma Island, the horrors of that deadly night continue to haunt survivors.

Hebe Cheng Yuen-ki, who along with her husband and young daughters managed to make it out alive, says she can't get the images out of her head of the chaotic minutes after the two vessels, loaded with passengers, smashed into each other.

"I still do not dare to take the ferry," Cheng said.

She made the remark after she and three other survivors received a Heroic Volunteer Award from the non-governmental organisation Agency for Volunteer Service yesterday for saving other passengers on board the 24-metre Lamma IV vessel.

The Lamma IV was carrying 121 passengers and three crew members when it collided with the passenger ferry the Sea Smooth just after 8pm on October 1, National Day. The Lamma IV capsized in minutes, sending more than 100 people into the water. Thirty-nine people died in Hong Kong's worst maritime accident in decades.

Cheng risked her life by sliding down the slanting deck of the sinking vessel to grab two flotation devices to save her children, aged six and four.

Then an elderly woman asked for one of the floats, and Cheng gave it to her.

"The police recently called us to give back lost items they found. When I saw the items such as some shoes, I felt upset. The memories are sealed deeply in my heart. I am thankful that I am still alive," Cheng said.

"Ever since then, I have learned to treasure the time I have with my family even more."

Another survivor, Lee Ming-sun, said he only recently returned to eating and sleeping normally. He recalled the difficult choices he had to make after the collision.

"I grabbed my two children and swam to the lifeboat. I put them on the lifeboat and swam back to the vessel because my wife was still on board. When I was on my way, I saw a person calling for help and I decided to save that person first," Lee said. "At the end, I rescued a person and my wife was rescued by someone else."

The two other recipients of the awards were Rex Au King-lim and Chiu Ping-chuen.