A coroner’s finding that the death of principal firefighter Yau Siu-ming in the line of duty was accidental was unremarkable . The tragedy was, after all, an accident that took the life of a husband and father while he tried to rescue others. What sets the case apart is that it was an avoidable accident. That was the abiding message in Coroner Ko Wai-hung’s remarks on the circumstances of the mission by Yau and others to save an off-duty policeman and his girlfriend stranded in poor weather in a treacherous part of Ma On Shan country park in March 2017. Urging hikers to be more responsible, Ko said that when inexperienced people needed help after leaving proper trails, they endangered rescuers. “This is a good case in point,” he said, adding that the firefighter’s death was “too much of a price to pay”. The police officer, Wun Cho-wing, told the hearing he and Lau So-man, an aviation security supervisor, had set off from Sai Kung for the country park following a map they got from the internet, but took a wrong turn on the Maclehose trail, ignoring a warning sign. They ended up stranded on a steep slope off the proper trail. Searchers found them around midnight and a rescue effort began a few hours later when more support arrived. Yau was last heard from about 5am. The coroner surmised that in a rescue made harder by poor visibility and slippery rocks, Yau fell off a steep slope after losing his footing, or an object he was using to steady himself had come loose. This prompted him to recommend the Fire Services Department provide climbing shoes and helmet lights for use in foggy weather. Questions remain why the pair veered off the hiking trail despite a caution, and why they even embarked on a route known to be challenging in unstable weather conditions. The tragedy serves as a sobering warning to the adventurous that they should be mindful of risky decisions, such as going to dangerous places in poor conditions, that have the potential to put rescuers at unnecessary risk. Marine water sport during typhoons or hiking in treacherous weather are just two activities that come to mind. They should also bear in mind that rescues use public resources. One firefighter or policeman attending an avoidable emergency is one fewer attending a real one.