Mourners pay respects to drowned firefighter

Top officials joined 200 mourners yesterday at the funeral of fireman Chiu Shun-on, who died trying to rescue a drowning 15-year-old schoolboy.

The Hunghom service began when six of Chiu's colleagues, led by Chief Fire Officer Chan Yun-pui, draped the SAR flag over the coffin, which was later moved out of the hall at the Universal Funeral Parlour. Senior fire officials saluted the cortege.

Mourners included the representative of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie; Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping; legislators James Tien Pei-chun and Emily Lau Wai-hing; and disciplined forces and government officials.

They laid wreaths in front of the coffin and paid tribute to Chiu, 49. Among the wreaths was one sent by Wong Kam-bo, father of Wong Wing-nam, who drowned off Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung, on August 28. Chiu's body washed up two days later.

Chiu was buried at Gallant Garden, a cemetery for civil servants who die while on duty, even though he was off duty at the time. During the service, Chiu's widow, Tsang Chiu-king, and 13-year-old son, Chiu Cheuk-nam, appeared calm.

Mr Tien said businesses had donated $800,000 to Mrs Chiu to support her son's education. 'In these very difficult times, Mr Chiu was highly respected for what he had done,' Mr Tien said.

Meanwhile, retired police chief inspector Frank Knight disputed that Chiu had been off duty. He said Chiu was always on duty regardless of whether he was on a scheduled shift.