Hong Kong police on Thursday charged two captains with manslaughter after a ferry collision last year that claimed 39 lives in the city’s worst maritime disaster in decades.
The two men – Lai Sai-ming, the 54-year-old captain of the Sea Smootn, and Chow Chi-wau, the 56-year-old captain of the Lamma IV, were each charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and will appear in a magistrates’ court later in the day, police said in a statement.
The captains were arrested along with five crew after the October 1 crash between their two boats, with authorities pointing to possible human error as the cause of the accident.
Police said the five, who have been out on police bail, would report back to the authorities later this month.
Hong Kong’s worst sea incident in 40 years saw a high-speed ferry, the Sea Smooth, collide with a pleasure craft, the Lamma IV, carrying around 120 passengers a company trip to watch national day fireworks.
The Lamma IV’s left rear was torn open in the impact, throwing scores of passengers into the sea. The vessel’s stern was flooded within minutes, trapping passengers in the submerged cabin.
The government has set up a commission to look into the crash, which happened near Lamma Island, a popular spot with expatriates. The commission is due to report its findings later this month.
Investigators have pored over the incident, trying to piece together how such an accident could have happened in a city which prides itself on its state-of-the-art transport infrastructure.
The examination looked at the Lamma IV’s structural soundness, why it began sinking so quickly, whether there was adequate safety equipment on board and whether the captain followed the rules of the sea.