Training prepared me well, MTR captain in Hong Kong firebomb incident says
Operator of ill-fated train kept his cool and some passengers were filmed helping others
The driver of the MTR train where Friday’s firebomb attack took place recalled the terror on board and how he handled the situation calmly in the “biggest incident” of his 34-year career with the company.
MTR train captain Chan Wing-keung, 57, said of the horrific experience: “We were passing through the cross-harbour tunnel from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui when a number of passengers pulled the emergency brakes. At the same time, I could smell something burning. I immediately notified the operations control centre.”
“I did not know what had happened at first,” he added. “I could not hear clearly what the passengers were saying because it was very noisy in the background.”
Chan, who has 32 years of experience in train driving and has spent more than 20 years ferrying passengers on the Tsuen Wan Line, said his employer provided adequate training to deal with emergency situations.
He said he knew at the time that staying calm was important even though he wasn’t sure of what had happened.
“If you cannot stay calm in a situation like this, you are not a qualified train captain,” he added.
“After I had requested the control centre to deploy extra manpower at Tsim Sha Tsui station, I informed passengers through the intercom system that the train would stop at Tsim Sha Tsui, where all of them would need to get off,” he said, stressing that this was company procedure.
“I was afraid some of the passengers would climb out of the train to escape [before reaching the stop] if I did not calm them down,” he said.
Asked what his first reaction was when he smelled the smoke, Chan said he thought of nothing other than bringing his passengers to safety by arriving at the station as soon as possible.
Chan said when the train stopped, he saw that some staff members were already dealing with the situation while also awaiting further instructions from the control centre.
“This was, of course, the biggest incident [of my career] … But as a train captain, this was what I needed to do. I had to deal with the danger immediately. There was nothing to panic about,” he said.
Chan was among the five frontline Tsim Sha Tsui station staff who met Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung yesterday.
Cheung visited the station and thanked MTR staff for their work.
Apart from staff members, video clips circulating on the internet also showed a number of Good Samaritans trying to help contain the situation and assist the injured, including putting out the flames on the suspect.
In one video, a woman in a white jacket tried to douse water over Cheung Kam-fai, the 60-year-old suspect arrested in relation to the case.
Cheung was seen standing on the platform and holding a green container in his left hand while his pants were engulfed by fire.
Another woman took off her jacket in an attempt to use it to smother the flames on Cheung.
In another clip, at least three women and two men were filmed frantically fighting the fire on Cheung, who was by then lying on the ground with his lower body ablaze.
As the drama unfolded on the platform, pockets of fire could still be seen raging inside the train carriage.
Separately, a man was also caught on footage comforting the injured Cheung, who was lying motionless on the platform. His trousers were burned to shreds, exposing his legs.
Additional reporting by Yupina Ng