Harrowing tales of their loved ones' last moments

Restaurant manager gives a tearful account of trying to keep his girlfriend conscious after flames engulfed their walk-up in Fa Yuen Street

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 4:34am

A woman who died in the 2011 Mong Kok blaze shivered twice before she collapsed in her last-ditch attempt to escape, her distraught boyfriend said yesterday.

The eyes of restaurant manager Wu Sin-hang brimmed with tears as he told the Coroner's Court of the horrifying last moments with his girlfriend Pang Mei-kuen on the day the flames engulfed a walk-up building and claimed nine lives.

She fell unconscious as he urged her, "Don't sleep or you will never wake up."

Wu, 36, said he was woken at dawn on November 30, 2011, by heat and a smell of scorching.

He and Pang, 30, tried to escape their seventh-floor cubicle flat at 194 Fa Yuen Street by the main staircase.

"We were running down," he recalled. "After walking down half a floor, there were people rushing up. I realised we couldn't go down."

They tried to escape upstairs but also failed, so they returned to their unit.

"She wanted to use a key to open the door," Wu said. "She was so nervous that she couldn't do it. She dropped the key, and when she turned around to pick it up … she shuddered twice and collapsed."

Urging Pang not to sleep as a fog of choking smoke crept in, he also passed out.

He came round as a rescuer arrived and urged him to "hang in there". "I said, 'Save my girlfriend' three times and fell unconscious again."

When Wu uttered these words, Pang's sister, Stella Pang Ka-fung, sobbed.

Wu was in hospital for a month after inhaling carbon monoxide and suffering burns to his lower legs.

Another survivor, Wong Mei-wa, who hobbled in and out of the courtroom, said she had spent more than 10 months in hospital having treatment for burns to her face and limbs.

Wong told the inquest she had run downstairs shortly after noticing that hawker stalls outside her building had caught fire.

Giving evidence in a soft voice because of throat injuries suffered in the fire, the 28-year-old saleswoman said she lived alone in a cubicle on the second floor of 194 Fa Yuen Street.

"When I arrived at the gate between the first and mezzanine floors, I saw a huge fire on the pavement," she recalled. "I also saw a light tube, fastened to the ceiling by a wire, swaying."

Wong then hurried towards the rooftop together with a couple, but after they had run up a few floors, the staircase was overwhelmed by smoke.

"The woman fell down first, and then the man," she said. "Before he collapsed, he told his wife: "I love you... [I] don't want to die."

Wong was rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital.

Kung Sin-shing, 25, boyfriend of dead victim Cheung Chi-mei, 27, told how they ran hand in hand towards the rooftop but he lost sight of her just steps away from the exit before he fainted.

They had lived in a unit on the third floor of 192 Fa Yuen Street.

The inquest continues on Monday, with firefighters giving evidence before coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu and a jury.