A CORONER was forced to conduct an inquest without a jury yesterday after 16 jurors failed to turn up in court. The Judiciary had sent out 18 letters by registered mail informing potential jurors to attend court yesterday, but only five confirmed they could not appear and only two turned up in court. The inquest could not start at 9.30 am as scheduled because it was supposed to sit with a jury of three. Coroner John Saunders, the coroner's officer, witnesses, relatives of the deceased, and court staff were all left waiting for a third juror to appear. After about 35 minutes, Mr Saunders said he had to discharge the jury due to the inadequate number of jurors and would hear the inquest alone. A coroner has the discretion to decide whether an inquest should sit with a jury. A Judiciary spokesman said it was the first time a jury was dismissed because there was no quorum. Any juror who fails to attend the court without any reasonable excuse faces a fine of up to $3,000. The Judiciary would investigate why the potential jurors failed to appear and whether there was any problem or room for improvement in the system, a spokesman said. However, he could not say whether the jurors would be prosecuted. In yesterday's inquest, a verdict of accidental death was recorded for Keong Kam-fook, 35. He fell from a cliff outside the Cheshire Home for the disabled in Chung Hom Kok Road where he had been staying for more than two years. Keong died on May 14. The cause of death was drowning, combined with a fractured skull and injuries to the brain. Keong, who was slightly mentally retarded, had a stroke in 1993 and was paralysed on his right side. He suffered meningitis and epilepsy when he was a child. Mr Saunders said Keong may have wanted to explore the area so he climbed the fence outside the home. He asked the home to examine its facilities carefully, especially in the area near the cliff, and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of residents. Outside court, Keong's sister, Keong Yee-man, said she hoped suitable measures would be taken. A spokesman for the home said it had already added a 1.8-metre wire mesh to its safety measures to prevent other residents climbing on to the slope. But he added: 'We want the patients to feel at home, not like a bird in a cage.' Meetings are to be held on possible further security measures.