The lack of proper lookout or the possibility of “reckless gambling” in the form of a who-blinks-first game between the coxswains of both vessels could be the cause of the disastrous collision off Lamma Island last year, the counsel for the commission of inquiry said in his final submission on Monday.
Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC said both the crew of Lamma IV and Sea Smooth had not kept a proper look-out, by eye or radar.
He also slammed the Marine Department in his final submission for failing to detect a missing watertight door on the Lamma IV, which contributed to the sinking of Lamma IV.
“[The department] missed a golden opportunity ... Perhaps at great cost,” he said.
But Clive Grossman SC, for the owner and crew of Lamma IV, said it was unfair to give the impression to the public that the crew of Lamma IV was equally wrong as the crew of Sea Smooth.
He said the crew had shown commendable bravery after the collision and they should not be blamed for their failure to recall the exact sequence of events.
“People, and again we include the crew, who suddenly, within seconds, are facing deaths and disaster, cannot be held to account for every second, indeed every action, indeed every word, that was spoken by whom or to whom, in those fateful minutes or seconds, compressed into nano-seconds by the awful events,” he said.”
He also slammed the Sea Smooth crew for not staying behind to help rescue the people in the sunken Lamma IV. He said there would have been fewer casualties if the Sea Smooth had stopped to help with the rescue.
But Richard Zimmern, for the operator of Sea Smooth, said there was no evidence that the leaving of the scene by Sea Smooth had caused the passengers’ death. He said they died mostly because of drowning or being trapped inside the Lamma IV.
Lai Sai-ming, Sea Smooth’s coxswain, and three other crew members, said they had nothing to add to the inquiry.
The commission is expected to submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the Chief Executive by April 22.