Lamma ferry crash

Secrecy over government report leaves relatives of Lamma dead without closure

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 5:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 8:02am

Images of a sinking South Korean ferry last week were all too familiar, even disturbing, to traumatised survivors of the sea tragedy off Lamma in 2012.

And Thursday's partial revelation of a government report on the accident did little to bring closure and healing to them, a woman who lost her son in the October 1 collision between the Lamma IV and the Sea Smooth said.

Irene Cheng said she was not the only one who faltered on seeing the April 16 footage from Jindo that showed the vessel Sewol listing and then flipping over.

"Some of the survivors said they were depressed," Cheng, whose son Thomas Koo Man-cheung died in the Lamma ferry crash, said. "We constantly share our feelings on a WhatsApp [mobile messaging] group."

The death toll in the South Korean accident rose above 180 yesterday. The 325 students on board the Sewol had set out for a four-day field trip to the resort island of Jeju, just as the families on the Lamma IV had been heading to watch the National Day fireworks in Victoria Harbour in 2012. Eight children were among the 39 people who died in the Lamma tragedy.

Aggravating the unease in Hong Kong was the Transport and Housing Bureau's refusal to disclose fully its report of an internal investigation into one of the city's worst maritime accidents, Cheng said.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung stressed the need for confidentiality.

"What we need to consider are witness statements in court when criminal proceedings are taken in future," he said. "If, due to careless handling [by] prematurely disclosing the [report], a person who should have been punished by law is freed from such punishment - is that what we would like to see happen?"

Yuen also turned down Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun's invitation to attend today's meeting between survivors, relatives of the dead and bureau chief Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. A separate meeting with "all relatives" - not just those To represented - would be arranged, he said.

Cheng countered: "We lack legal knowledge and To's [presence] will be important. Why doesn't Yuen simply come and tell us [details of the report] first?"