Building crane topples onto LRT train

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am

An investigation involving several government departments is under way after a crane fell on a Light Rail Transit train in Tuen Mun yesterday, injuring 18 people.

The wheel-mounted crane tipped over at the construction site of a new public swimming pool just after 2pm, sending the 35-metre arm crashing into the route 505 train as it approached Leung King stop with 40 to 50 passengers.

The crane had been delivered to the site on Tin King Road just a day earlier to remove concrete piles.

The driver of the crane was not injured. The Architectural Services Department, which is building the pool, is investigating whether the ground in the area was softened by yesterday's downpour.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Mathew Cheung Kin-chung said it was a rare incident and promised a thorough investigation.

'If it involves human negligence, we will not rule out the possibility of prosecution,' he said.

Passengers said they heard a loud bang and the train came to an abrupt halt, sending people tumbling to the floor.

'Many people were frightened and screaming for help. There were sparks in the train and glass fragments flew inside the cabin,' an injured male passenger said.

Services on four Light Rail routes were stopped because of damage to overhead cables.

MTR Corporation head of operations Choi Tak-tsan, said last night he hoped repairs could be completed before train services resumed this morning.

Work on the construction site has been suspended.

Police said initial investigations showed the crane arm was extended but was not lifting anything when it collapsed.

The arm fell across a covered walkway surrounding the construction site and struck the overhead cables before hitting the train.

It left a long dent across the roof of the train and one of the windows was shattered.

A section of handrail was broken off.

The injured - 14 women and four men aged 20 to 64 - were treated at Tuen Mun Hospital and Pok Oi Hospitals and discharged.

'The sound was very loud and just like an explosion,' a stunned female passenger said.

'The train stopped suddenly and I fell on to the floor.'

Speaking at Tuen Mun hospital, an injured woman said: 'It happened all of a sudden. The train made an abrupt stop. Everyone was terrified.'

She said metal debris fell from the ceiling of the train, hitting one woman passenger.

A woman who was walking past when it happened said sparks flew as the crane arm hit the overhead cable.

'The sound was very loud, just like thunder,' she said, adding she was still in shock.

Another crane was brought in to remove the collapsed crane and the damaged train was towed away. The MTR Corporation mobilised 18 shuttle buses to run services in the affected area.

Construction Industry Employees General Union chairman Chow Luen-kiu said the ground at the scene was muddy and pooled with water.

'The unsteady ground might have made the crane lose balance and topple over,' he said. He said that to avoid similar incidents, the Labour Department should step up inspections and enhance enforcement action at construction sites.

Contractors should make sure cranes were properly secured.

The crane is covered by the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Lifting Appliances and Lifting Gear) Regulations, which carry a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment and a HK$200,000 fine for breaches.

The Labour Department said proper examinations should be carried out on such cranes and operators must be certified persons who had to receive training.

A spokesman said the department was investigating the case with related government departments.

The department's figures show that 15 people were killed in industrial accidents in the first eight months of this year, compared to 21 in the whole of last year.

In 2007, a crane collapsed during the demolition of the Mitsukoshi department store in Causeway Bay, killing two people and injuring five others.