Blood pouring from a nasty head wound, a quick-thinking engineer pulled his wife and two children out of the sinking Lamma IV and to safety.
The family counted their blessings yesterday as their hero father, Fong Hang-keung, recovered in Queen Mary Hospital.
"There wasn't enough time to wear life jackets. We had just got them over our heads when the water rushed in - heaps of it," said his wife, Renee.
Her husband, who is about 40 years old, works for Hongkong Electric. He has nine stitches in his head and a cracked neck bone after his ordeal.
His wife, a social worker, their seven-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter escaped with bruises.
It was the first time the Fong family had joined the company's trip to watch the fireworks in Victoria Harbour. They had just settled in to enjoy the outing when a ferry crashed into their vessel.
"Suddenly there was a loud bang," she said. "A board slammed down and hit my husband's head. It was bleeding."
She saw several youths on the other side of the cabin also covered by boards. Another family at the back made phone calls for help. The vessel was still upright at the time.
The crew told passengers to put on life jackets and her husband found an exit and pulled his wife and the two children out into the sea, despite his injuries.
"He was very brave. The force [of water coming in] was so big that if he hadn't pulled us out, we would have been in danger staying inside."
Once they were out in the sea, Fong, an open-water swimming enthusiast, told them to take off their shoes to make it easier to swim. His wife was the only one who did not know how to swim.
"I think if [the rescuers] had arrived later, I wouldn't have been able to stand it. I swallowed several mouthfuls of water," she said.
They did not see other people while managing to say afloat in the water, but the family was calm. She said they were Christians and their faith helped them and gave them peace.
"My daughter suggested praying. It gave us motivation." The girl comforted the rest of the family.
"When we saw another boat coming, my son called out for help. Both of my children were very smart," she said.
A second Hongkong Electric ferry arrived after 10 minutes and picked up survivors, including the Fong family.
"We're very thankful. We believe there aren't so many coincidences. There was nothing we could do at the time, as if it was all controlled by fate."