Camera captures moment before woman's harbour suicide attempt

Russian visitor takes photo minutes before woman jumps into Victoria Harbour

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 1:14pm

The critical moments before a mainland woman tried to commit suicide by jumping into Victoria Harbour were captured by a first-time visitor to Hong Kong, who says the experience has changed her life forever.

Russian businesswoman Ulyana Klepikova, 27, was taking an evening stroll with her husband along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade on July 12 when a series of dramatic events unfolded before their eyes.

The couple had flown in from Moscow that day and spent the afternoon meeting clients. It was their first trip to Hong Kong and, at around 9pm, they stopped near the Star Ferry pier to enjoy the bright lights of the skyline.

Then Klepikova noticed a woman walking down one of the public piers towards the water. "She was walking slowly and really deep in thought, but I didn't think anything strange because people like to watch the water."

A keen amateur photographer, Klepikova was taking pictures of passers-by when she noticed the woman again.

"I watched her for a few minutes as she had a very intense stare. I thought she must have been thinking over something.

"I was impressed by the reflections of the lights on the water and together with the look on her face, it was a very chilling and emotional scene. That's why I took the photos."

In one photo, the mainland woman looked straight at Klepikova. "I met her eyes and that gave me the shivers because I thought I was disturbing her, so I turned around and started taking pictures of something else."

A few minutes later, her husband noticed the woman, fully clothed and carrying a backpack, swimming in the harbour, about 15 metres from the pier.

"At that moment, I didn't understand what she was doing," Klepikova said. "Then it occurred to me that it might be suicide so we stopped people to call the police.

"It was confusing because if a person is drowning, that's one thing, but if the person is swimming …"

Within minutes of receiving the report, police launched a search and rescue operation with the help of the fire and marine departments.

Around midnight, a Super Puma helicopter from the Government Flying Service was deployed and searched the harbour for almost two hours.

The woman, 28, was found at around 5.30am the next morning by the crew of a guide tanker, almost nine hours after she first entered the water. She is now in Kowloon Hospital under observation. Police have classified the case as an attempted suicide. Sunday Morning Post attempts to contact the woman and her family were unsuccessful.

It wasn't until Klepikova was back in Russia last Sunday that she found out by reading a news report that the young woman had been rescued.

"When I saw the article, I was really shocked and called my husband straight away. This accident changed my life because after I found out she was still alive, I started to believe life is wonderful and that every day is a miracle.

"She has been given a second chance to start her life over and I hope she will think more positively."