Memorial area set up at Sha Tin fire station to mourn Hong Kong fireman who died in clifftop rescue

Top government officials and other citizens pay their respects amid calls for hikers to be more aware of potential dangers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 11:40pm

Firefighter Yau Siu-ming, who died in a heroic clifftop rescue mission on Wednesday, was always the first to get to the scene of an emergency and the last to leave, according to colleagues who paid tribute to him on Thursday.

Some 50 firefighters, along with Yau’s wife and six-year-old son, gathered to pay their respects in a tearful memorial ceremony in Ma On Shan country park, facing the cliff where he lost his life.

During a traditional Chinese ritual, Yau’s wife and son stood in front of a ceremonial table upon which his uniform and food offerings were laid out.

“Where did dad go?” the boy asked, looking up at his mother, who squeezed his shoulder in ­reply, blinking back tears.

Yau, 50, lost his footing and slipped off a cliff during an overnight search and rescue operation that began on Tuesday for two lost hikers in a treacherous part of the country park.

From dangerous mountain rescues to freeing passengers trapped in lifts, his colleagues ­remembered Yau as a fearless firefighter.

“He was the guy who would always be standing in the front line every single time; he really took care to make sure everyone was safe,” Yau’s colleague, Rambo Chow, told the Post at the memorial ceremony.

One of the firefighters, who worked with Yau for seven years, remembered him a valiant leader who always worked hard to teach younger members of his team.

“It’s incredibly heartbreaking to have lost such a good teacher, friend and brother,” Jerry Nip Yuen-fung said.

“He would always be strict as a team leader, but we all knew he was doing it for our good.”

Firefighter Lau Pui-yin, who knew Yau for eight years, recalled that his fallen comrade was an avid cyclist and a fitness fanatic.

“Whether it was about work, biking, or life in general, he was so willing and eager to share his knowledge,” Lau said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok made an appearance at Tin Sum fire station, where Yau had served since 1987, on Thursday morning to offer their condolences and pay their respects.

A memorial area was set up at the station for citizens to pay their respects as well as to sign a condolence book.

The Fire Services Department headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy in Tseung Kwan O also flew their flags at half-mast on Thursday.

One visitor to the memorial area said hikers should not venture into treacherous terrain in bad weather, especially during the foggy season.

“We Hong Kong citizens are very grateful to [Yau],” she said, holding back tears.

“I hope his son will grow into a great person like his father, but will be blessed with more luck.”

Another mourner urged hikers to plan their routes in advance top avoid getting into trouble.

“We need to be responsible for our own lives,” she said.

“You shouldn’t put the lives of those who need to rescue you in danger.”

The memorial area will be open to the public from 9am to 9pm every day until Yau’s funeral, the date for which has not yet been decided.

Five fire services unions are seeking to raise funds to support Yau’s family members.

Interested parties can donate cheques to LAU LELEN via post to the Hong Kong Fire Services Department Staffs General Association at Flat A, 2/F, Cheng Hong Building, 47-57 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei.