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.
Most victims of Lamma IV not wearing life vests, inquiry told
Official figures show at least 28 people who died could not get their hands on life jackets
At least 28 out of the 39 victims who died in a sea collision off Lamma Island were not wearing life jackets, while four others were merely holding flotation vests in their hands, a commission of inquiry into the National Day disaster heard yesterday.
The conditions of the remaining seven at the time their bodies were salvaged could not be ascertained, Fire Services Department data showed yesterday.
Survivors from Hongkong Electric launch Lamma IV, which collided with public ferry Sea Smooth on the night of October 1, had complained of difficulties in retrieving life vests on board and little time to put them on.
Deputy chief fire officer Yau Wai-keung, who commanded the rescue operation, testified that he declared the collision a level-one multiple-casualty incident 39 minutes after the crash, and upgraded it to level two 20 minutes later.
"When we arrived at the scene, we were aware that there would be more casualties," Yau said. "So we elevated our preparation and strategy with other departments."
The 39 dead comprised 23 women, eight men, five girls and three boys.
Over the five-day operation, the fire department mobilised more than 600 officers and, together with police and other rescuers, saved more than 80 lives. Its divers conducted 50 dives and retrieved 24 bodies in the first 12 dives, the inquiry heard. The rest were recovered by other rescuers.
According to the data, 23 bodies were salvaged from the upper deck of Lamma IV and five from the main deck. Seven were found floating in the water and three were on life rafts. Only the location of one body could not be determined.
The department got its first emergency call at 8.23pm, three minutes after the crash, Yau said.
Fireman Wong Tsz-kiu, who was on the first fireboat that arrived at 8.41pm, recalled that a woman was clinging on to a handrail at the starboard side of Lamma IV, with her feet close to the water. At that time, the bow was already listing 90 degrees to the sea. Wong threw a lifebuoy repeatedly and saved her, he said.
After that, he saw a group in the upper deck hit the windows for help. He broke in and freed more than a dozen people.
He then saw three unconscious victims float in the upper-deck cabin. He pushed two of them out but was briefly trapped inside with a girl due to strong waves. After he got out, he performed resuscitation on her.
Wong later learned the girl was Tsui Hoi-ying, 10, who died of multiple organ failure from drowning and injuries after four days in hospital. Her father Tsui Chi-wai, 42, also died.
The hearing continues today.