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.
We handed our children to other passengers... and never saw them again: heartbreaking stories of ferry crash survivors
They tried to save young son and daughter by passing them to others as Lamma IV sank
A heartbroken couple recalled yesterday how they handed their two children to other people on the sinking boat Lamma IV and never saw them again.
Kwok Yin-tang, 37, broke down in tears at the inquiry into the Lamma ferry tragedy as his wife Wong Yee-yi, 28, was heard crying "Oh no … my daughter" in a recording of his call to police after the collision with the ferry Sea Smooth. The children were among 39 people who died in the disaster on October 1.
Kwok, a bus driver, said he heard a loud bang five minutes after the boat left Lamma Island and the family, who had been sitting on the last row of the lower deck, were knocked to the floor as the ceiling fell on them. They did not have time to put on lifejackets. As he spoke to the police, he saw water at his feet.
He first thought it was a minor accident but the situation quickly deteriorated. The fallen ceiling separated Kwok and three-year-old son Matthew from Wong and their daughter Laura, four.
Kwok took his son and ran up the passage as the boat began to tilt. They were submerged by seawater, and Kwok struggled to the surface. "As I could not swim, I shouted loudly if anybody could help to take my son. Afterwards, someone took my son out of the water," he said in a statement. Kwok lost sight of Matthew later.
Testifying next, Wong said she and Laura were trapped near the boat's staircase and she passed her daughter to a crew member.
Kwok and Wong were later reunited on a First Ferry vessel but the children were found dead.
Lai Ho-yin, recreation officer at Hongkong Electric and an organiser of the boat trip, said he was in the wheelhouse when he saw Sea Smooth approaching. He saw skipper Chow Chi-wai turn his wheel 10 to 20 seconds later and the boats collided five seconds later. Chow was looking ahead before the crash, he said.
Lai made the first call to the police at 8.21pm after the collision, and the police received seven more calls from Lamma IV in the next minute and a half.
Lai said he was not aware of a marine notice issued two weeks before National Day, which advised children on board to wear lifejackets and skippers to make a passenger list before departure.
Tutor Lau Hau-yin, who was on the upper deck with her family, said Chow asked passengers to call the police after the accident but the operator hung up on her after she failed to detail her location. She made another call and gave the phone to Chow. In a recording of it played at the inquiry, he was heard asking passengers to don a lifejacket and sit down. All witnesses from the Lamma IV have been called. Sea Smooth passengers will testify as the hearing continues today.
‘THE VESSEL IS TAKING IN WATER’
An excerpt from Kwok Yin-tang's telephone call to Hong Kong police at 8.21pm on October 1. Soon after he gets through, he hands the phone to his wife, Wong Yee-yi.
Operator: What's the matter?
Wong: Probably a vessel collision. The vessel is taking in water.
Operator: Vessel collision, the vessel is taking in water, right?
Wong: Right. I am at the stern now. I am trapped. I cannot get out.
Operator: Er, you …
Wong: I, my daughter is trapped. The Lamma IV vessel of our company.
Operator: Vessel Lamma IV.
Wong: Right. Water is coming in … water is coming in.
Operator: Understand. Miss, I now send … get vehicles, get vessels to help you.
Operator: OK, could you leave the information to the police. I'll get some vessels to go over to help you.
Wong: Oh no … my daughter!
Operator: Mr Law [operator's error], could you please calm down.
[Background noises, call is cut off]