Disabled wife burns to death after husband flees fire

Neighbours heard couple arguing and objects being thrown before the blaze, which Fire Service says began in suspicious circumstances

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 3:46am

Police are investigating a fire at a Sha Tin public housing estate which killed a woman who could not walk and was left in the burning flat by her husband yesterday morning.

Residents had heard arguing and objects being thrown before the fire broke out on the ninth floor of Cypress House, Kwong Yuen estate, at 5.25am. The charred body of Chan Chi-ying, 52, was found on a bed inside. She could not walk as her leg was in plaster from an injury she received two months ago while at work, her brother said.

The Fire Services Department said Chan's husband, Kwan Ka-leung, escaped on his own and noted there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the cause of the fire.

Kwan was yesterday in a serious condition, with injuries to his hands. He was taken to hospital with three other people.

An 89-year-old man who inhaled some smoke has been discharged.

A 24-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman were in a stable condition. About 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Chan's younger brother, Chan Kim-wah, said he last saw his sister on Wednesday when he visited her over the Lunar New Year holiday. He did not notice anything unusual about the couple on his last visit.

He said Chan and Kwan have two offspring in their 20s, and one child who is still in school. The children have moved out of the flat and Chan and Kwan lived alone, he said

Chan was an occasional domestic helper while Kwan was a worker for a government contractor, he said. Some other family members at the scene yesterday were agitated and the three children were tearful.

A 60-year-old neighbour, who lives on the floor below, said she was awakened by "banging sounds" and a quarrel that went on for 10 minutes before the fire started.

"It was very noisy. It was like people throwing things and there were shouts as well," she said.

She heard two explosions after the fire broke out.

A resident who lived in the building opposite the fire said she was woken by a man shouting "fire".

"I looked out and saw nothing at first. Then I saw flames in the living room. The fire soon spread to the room next to it," she said.

The department's acting assistant divisional officer, Mui Yin-wai, said the flat was badly destroyed.

The department has not identified the cause of the blaze, but has found suspicious circumstance in the way the fire spread, Mui said. Firemen put out the blaze in 45 minutes.