Lamma IV engineer recalls final moments on doomed ferry
Lamma IV engineer relives his last moments on doomed ferry and his attempts to save lives
The engineer of the sinking Lamma IV waved in a plea for help at a nearby ferry, but got no response, the commission of inquiry in the accident heard yesterday. The vessel belonged to Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry, Leung Pui-sang told the inquiry into the October 1 disaster, in which 39 people died. But he was not sure that the boat in question was the Sea Smooth - which had just collided with Lamma IV.
Leung said he walked to the wheelhouse to check the engine panel and keep a lookout shortly after the ferry set sail, when he saw a ship approach at about 20 knots, which surprised him.
"I yelled to the coxswain, 'A ship is coming at us'," he said.
But, within seconds, he felt the impact of the collision and fell to the deck, hurting his right hand.
Charles Sussex SC, for the owner and crew of Sea Smooth, suggested that coxswain Chow Chi-wai had previously said he heard his sailor, Leung Tai-yau, yelling.
The engineer said he was not facing Chow when he shouted.
Leung then went down to check the engine room - despite being warned it would be dangerous - and found the room flooded, with water pouring in.
On his way back to the wheelhouse he saw a vessel two to three ship-lengths away. "I waved my hands and yelled out for help, as the Lamma IV was sinking. But there was no response," he said.
Leung then noticed three people sitting still at the vessel's stern on the port side of the main deck. He shouted at them to escape and tried to go to them. But as he cleared the wreckage blocking his way, fresh debris kept falling, Leung said.
Then on the starboard, or right, side of the vessel, he saw a mother and a daughter holding on to each other.
He lifted the girl in his arms and began moving up the tilted deck, with the mother behind him. But by the time they reached the ship's midsection, the deck was tilted at about 45 degrees and Leung lost hold of the girl, he said.
At that point he fell into the water below, where he floated with a group of passengers, losing sight of the mother and daughter. He was saved by rescuers who broke the windows to free him.
He also recalled passengers had previously alerted him to loose seats and asked him to tighten them. During the accident some seats broke loose and trapped passengers.
Like Chow, Leung had no radar licence and did not recall if Hongkong Electric had provided him with training or a radar manual, despite company records showing it had.
He said he used radar only in foggy weather.
The hearing continues, with Lamma IV sailor Leung Tai-yau testifying next.