Victims of the National Day ferry collision were found clinging to one another in the cabin of the sunken Lamma IV amid swirling currents, the inquiry into the disaster has heard.
Divers told yesterday of finding and retrieving bodies from the stricken vessel after its collision with the Sea Smooth ferry on October 1 last year.
Senior Station Officer Chan Man-fai, a Fire Services diver, said he found four bodies without life jackets behind debris on the upper deck of the Lamma IV. Three were holding on tightly to one another.
"I believed I had discovered a family of three members as the child was grasped by a female adult [and] the female was grasped by another male," Chan said. "I thought they had gathered together because they could not find a way out of the vessel."
The bodies were later identified with different surnames.
Diver Yuen Ka-wai said he was pushed into the cabin by a powerful current and retrieved a body without a lifejacket. "When the water rushed in, it was like a washing machine," he said.
The waves were even stronger at the surface and water rushed in from the windows of the ferry, said Yuen. "I had to use a lot of strength to stabilise myself and get the victim out through the window," he said.
The commission in the past two days has identified the positions of 24 bodies among the 39 who died on the excursion to see the National Day fireworks.
Eighteen were found on the upper deck of the Lamma IV, some trapped by debris and benches. Three were found on the main deck, two were floating on the water surface, and a boy was found on the sea bed.
Diver Lam Yim-lung said he found the bodies of Lam Wai-yee, 10, Yumi Au Hiu-lam, 20, and Lam Ka-man, 30, hand-in-hand in the wheelhouse on the vessel's upper deck.
The commission heard that the body of Wendy Ie Hwie was found floating when the wreckage was stabilised by a crane. Her son Nicholas Chi-ho Belshaw, seven, was found on the sea bed.
His father Michael Belshaw, who was at the hearing, closed his eyes as he heard about his family.
Almost 19 hours after the crash, more bodies were found as the wreckage was raised.
Chiu Siu-king, 53, was found trapped in the canopy of the ferry's upper deck with both her feet tangled in the ropes of two lifebuoys.
About two hours later, Thomas Koo Man-cheung, 25, who suffered multiple injuries, was found on the main deck.
The commission approved three police divers to testify behind a screen today to protect their identities as they were involved in sensitive operations including counter-terrorism.