Lamma ferry crash

Lamma IV sailor rescued man and wife, inquiry told

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 3:14am

A survivor of the Lamma IV described how a sailor helped him escape the vessel with his wife, who later died, after it sank.

Wong Tai-wah, a container truck driver who had been sitting on the sixth row in the upper cabin of Lamma IV with his wife and three friends when the tragedy struck, told the commission of inquiry he and his wife swam out of a cabin window opened by a sailor after it went down.

But he did not have enough time to put on his life jacket, which did not have enough buoyancy to support him.

"At that time there was only one life jacket, and I was grabbing [it] under my right armpit and my wife was on my left-hand side, and we tried to swim out," he said. "But my wife didn't know how to swim, so we could not float with just one jacket.

"So we started to yell, and then a man came to us who gave us his jacket [which was] apparently newer than the one we had. He helped her up the Marine Department vessel, and I followed."

Despite both being rescued, his wife later died of her injuries.

Chan Kin-yan, a clerk who had been sitting on the open deck with her family members, said crew members told passengers at 8pm that the Lamma IV would cast off later as a fireworks display was only due to start at 9pm and passengers would get seasick waiting because of high wind and waves in Victoria Harbour.

She recalled the boat began to sink 30 seconds after the collision. Within two minutes all the lights had gone out and the ship was in complete darkness.

"Seawater kept pouring in, running over my body. I kept struggling in seawater, warding off miscellaneous items, swimming upwards and also standing on tiptoe on the [floating] objects in the water, keeping my head afloat to breathe," she said in her witness statement.

She recalled the captain, Chow Chi-wai, was grabbing hold of the railings of a staircase connecting the upper and lower decks, loudly telling passengers to stay calm and wait for rescue.

Lin Ka-wang, a Hongkong Electric student engineer who suffered multiple injuries including internal bleeding, recalled his limbs lost sensation after the collision. "When the water rose to my face, I managed to kick off the stuff trapping me and get afloat," he said.