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.
Lamma IV engineer recalls last moments on ill-fated ferry
The engineer of the sinking Lamma IV waved at a nearby ferry to signal that help was needed, but got no response from the ship, the commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.
The nearby vessel belonged to Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry, Leung Pui-sang told the inquiry into the October 1 disaster, in which 39 people died last year. He did not specify that it was the Sea Smooth – which had just collided with Lamma IV – but left the impression that it was.
When Lamma IV left the typhoon shelter on Lamma Island to begin its ill-fated trip that night, Leung said, he was on the open deck with about 20 passengers. The ship was taking over 100 passengers to see the National Day fireworks show in Victoria Harbour.
Leung then walked to the wheelhouse to check the engine panel and to help with lookout duty, when he saw a ship approaching at a speed of at least 20 knots.
“I yelled to the coxswain: ‘there’s a ship coming’,” he said. But within seconds, he felt the impact of the collision and fell to the deck, hurting his right arm.
Leung said he did not notice whether coxswain Chow Chi-wai was steering the ship when he entered the wheelhouse. Chow earlier testified that he, Chow, was at the helm. Leung then insisted on going down to check the engine room – although the coxswain warned it would be dangerous – and saw that the room was flooded with more water pouring in.
He climbed out of the engine room, looked out and saw a Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry vessel two to three ship-lengths away.
“I waved both my hands, yelling for help, because the Lamma IV was sinking. But there was no response,” he said. He then went to the upper deck, yelled to the coxswain that the ship was sinking, and told him to get passengers to don life jackets. Leung went down to the main deck and helped people find life vests.
Leung said he noticed three people sitting still at the vessel’s stern on the port, or left, side. He shouted at them to escape from the sinking boat, but they made no response.
He tried to go to them, clearing away wreckage that blocked his way, but fresh debris kept falling and getting in the way, Leung said.
Then on the starboard, or right, side of the ship, he saw a mother and a daughter holding onto each other. He asked them to leave the ship, but they did not respond. Then the ship’s lights went out and the backup lighting turned on.
He lifted the girl in his arms and began moving along the tilting deck, with the mother following him. But by the time they reached the ship’s midsection, the deck was tilting at about 45 degrees and Leung lost hold of the girl, he said.
At that point Leung fell into the water below, where he floated with a group of passengers, losing sight of the mother and daughter. They were all still inside the boat.
Somebody broke a window from the outside and Leung was able to swim out through it. There, he saw a man taking care of a boy with no life vest and a girl holding a vest.
Leung towed the girl to a life raft, where two young men were helping other passengers floating in the sea. After he was rescued, Leung was taken to Queen Mary Hospital.
The hearing continues.