LAMMA FERRY DISASTER
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Lamma ferry crash

Two marine officers charged over Hong Kong ferry crash that left 39 dead

Senior official and retired ship inspector from Marine Department will attend court tomorrow over their roles in the deadly 2012 sea collision

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 2:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 7:14pm

A senior official and a retired ship inspector, both of the Marine Department, have been arrested over the 2012 Lamma ferry collision that cost 39 lives. They will appear in court tomorrow.

The department's assistant director, So Ping-chi, 58, faces one count of misconduct in public office, and retired senior inspector Wong Kam-ching, 60, is charged with perjury.

So and Wong were invited yesterday to Central police station for inquiries, during which they were formally arrested and charged, a police source familiar with the case said.

The duo will appear in Eastern Court tomorrow.

"The investigation into the roles of the manufacturer and architects of the boat is still under way," the source said.

The National Day crash off Lamma Island saw its first convictions more than two years later when the skippers of both vessels - Hongkong Electric's Lamma IV and Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry's Sea Smooth - were jailed last month.

But the government has been facing public criticism that it was dragging its feet over a criminal investigation into the responsibilities of marine officers.

In May, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the police were due to submit a report within three months, priming the public for a decision on whether prosecutions were forthcoming.

The source said a part of that investigation had been completed, and whether more officials would be prosecuted would depend on the Department of Justice.

A spokesman for the Marine Department declined to comment last night as legal proceedings had commenced.

The government had launched an internal investigation, a report on which was released in April last year.

On October 1, 2012, the Lamma IV was taking 124 passengers on a trip to view celebratory fireworks in Victoria Harbour when it collided with the Sea Smooth catamaran, which had 62 passengers on board.

Eight children were among the 39 who died.

On February 16, Sea Smooth skipper Lai Sai-ming was jailed for eight years for manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea. Lai has appealed against his conviction.

Chow Chi-wai, captain of the Lamma IV, was cleared of manslaughter but received nine months in prison for endangering others at sea.

The Marine Department spokesman said improvements were being made.

"A comprehensive systemic review and reform of the department is under way, with a focus on introducing improvement measures to enhance marine safety, reviewing and improving its business processes and operational procedures, and mapping out its manpower strategy and training matters."