Three sailors found dead, three still missing after crash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 5:31am

Marine police have arrested four people for endangering the safety of others at sea after a collision off Bluff Head (Wong Ma Kok) on Thursday night that claimed the lives of three sailors.

The four in custody last night were the captain and helmsman from each vessel, aged 30 to 58.

An air and sea search is still under way for three other mainland sailors who are missing, feared drowned.

The bodies of the three mainland men were pulled from their sunken barge by Fire Services Department divers at about 7pm yesterday. The six disappeared after their mainland-registered vessel, Hai Bang Da 199, collided with another barge, Wang Da 6, and sank south of Bluff Head near Beaufort Island (Lo Chau) at about 7.30pm on Thursday.

The second boat remained afloat and none of its 14 crew members were hurt.

The captain and four other crew members of the sunken boat were rescued. Two of them were injured. One is in stable condition at the Queen Mary Hospital, while the other was discharged after treatment.

Their 96-metre barge sank to a depth of 27 metres, with only its bow visible above the surface of the water. The other, 97-metre, vessel was left with a six square metre hole in its bow. It was anchored at the site after the crash.

About 15 divers searched the four-deck sunken ship for the missing men after the collision, but their efforts were hampered by poor visibility and debris, a fire officer said.

"Our divers have to use their hands to search because visibility is so low. There is a lot of debris in the way, like quilts and furniture, that's making it more difficult," he said. He said the chances were slim of finding alive any of the three men still missing.

Visibility was at 920 metres at the scene because of mist and fog when the vessels collided on Thursday night at about 7.50pm, the Marine Department said.

A department spokeswoman said the site was located in one of the busiest channels in Hong Kong waters.

The sunken vessel was carrying construction waste. It had left Junk Bay and was headed for Taishan in Guangdong.

The other barge was carrying sand, and was travelling through Hong Kong waters on its way from Hainan Island to Fujian province.

It was the second major collision at sea in less than two weeks and follows the October 1 ferry crash off Lamma Island, which claimed 39 lives. An investigation by the South China Morning Post has found Hong Kong's high-speed ferries have been involved in 74 collisions from 2008 to March last year - an average of more than one a month.