Victims demand MTR pay for injuries suffered in Hong Kong train firebombing
Lawmaker calls on city’s rail operator to assist those injured in attack
Victims of a petrol attack on a train early this year demanded MTR Corporation pay compensation for their injuries after getting nothing but fruit baskets from the company.
Martin Cheng, 40, spent six months in hospital after receiving burns on his body during the attack that sent passengers scrambling at Tsim Sha Tsui station in February, injuring 19 including a 15-year-old girl.
He said so far all he has received from MTR Corp was a fruit basket.
“I had more than 100 pins on just one hand after surgery,” Cheng said on Monday, wiping away tears. “I have worked in a kitchen for more than 10 years. Now I can’t even hold a knife and I have become afraid of fire.”
Cheung Kam-fai, 60, threw a firebomb on a crowded MTR train during Hong Kong’s evening rush hour. Cheung was charged with one count of arson with intent but died from injuries he received during the attack before appearing in court.
Legislative councillor Roy Kwong Chun-yu, of the Democratic Party, said that five victims – some suffering burns of 25 per cent of their bodies – have asked him for help to seek compensation from MTR.
According to Kwong, MTR Corp bought third-party insurance from an unspecified company. When the victims filed for compensation through MTR Corp, they were told their applications had been transferred to the loss adjuster of the insurance company.
“The response of the MTR, as well as the emergency services, was swift, orderly and effective. The incident was not reasonably foreseeable and there was nothing that the MTR could have done to prevent the incident or to intervene,” the loss adjuster, Crawford (Hong Kong) Limited, said in a letter to the victims seen by the Post.
“In view of the foregoing, we are of the opinion that the liability for the incident within the train rests solely with the individual and not the MTR.”
The claims were denied, but Crawford told victims to seek compensation from the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Section under the Social Welfare Department.
Last week, MTR Corp cited Crawford’s assessment in a reply to Kwong that the liability of the arson attack rests on the arsonist and not MTR Corp.
“MTR and its chairman Fred Ma Si-hang said at the time how they cared about the injured passengers. That turned out to be just a public relations show,” Kwong said. “MTR was adding salt to their wounds with its reply.”
He said it was “outrageous” that MTR Corp has not offered any help to the victims apart from fruit baskets.
Kwong demanded that MTR Corp take responsibility and offer compensation, saying MTR Corp should release the full incident report conducted by investigation panel set up by MTR Corp.
Meanwhile, Cheng said he still has trouble standing following his release from hospital last month after a six-month stay.
“When the train was inside the tunnel, I heard someone yelling ‘burn you guys to death’. And then I was on fire. I yelled for help. I was rolling on the ground to put out the fire,” he said.
He said passengers tried to put out the fire and assist those with the injuries. He said he could not remember if MTR staff helped him.
“If this is not the MTR’s responsibility, whose responsibility was it?” he asked.
MTR Corp said late on Monday that it was saddened by the attack and wished all of the injured passengers a full recovery.
The company described itself as “also a victim of the unfortunate incident”.
MTR set up a panel with independent investigators, which concluded that the MTR’s handling was “robust, orderly, speedy and effective”.
MTR Corp and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals have launched a fund-raising campaign which collected HK$2.4 million, with HK$2 million coming from the company and its staff, and the rest from public donors. The money has already been distributed to 13 injured passengers.
“With regard to compensation claims, the corporation has followed up on all written applications for claims from passengers in accordance with the established procedure, and immediately referred the claims to the insurance company,” the company said.
“The insurance company has considered individual claims based on relevant circumstances and result of investigations on liability. Each application has also been assessed independently by a third-party loss adjuster.”