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Coroner in race death inquest queries why Hong Kong Marathon organisers did not get participants to self-evaluate their health

  • Wong Wai-kuen asked why runners were not provided with questionnaires to assess their health
  • Ng Cheuk-yue died one day after taking part in the marathon’s 10km race in 2015. Race organisers say this race has claimed the most lives in the event’s history
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 6:48pm

A coroner in an inquest into the death of a long-distance runner on Thursday flagged concerns about participants not being asked to self-evaluate their health before taking part in one of Hong Kong’s most popular races, after being told the entry-level race claimed the most lives in the past 19 years.

Coroner Wong Wai-kuen heard that the deceased, Ng Cheuk-yue, died one day after taking part in a 10km race at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on January 25, 2015.

The inquest, the first involving deaths at the annual sporting event, also learned that, despite the 10km run being the shortest category, it had experienced the most deaths in the 19 years since its inception.

Ng’s race began at 7:15am, the court heard on Thursday. But an hour later, he was found having collapsed near the end line in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.

The young man was first brought to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai, before he was transferred to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, where he died the next day

His death prompted Wong to ask whether the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), the race organiser, had provided runners with questionnaires, a way the coroner said might have given them a chance to assess their own conditions and risks before the run.

Dennis Ng Yu-ho, the chief executive of the HKAAA said the idea had been talked about but it had not yet materialised.

“Why did it take 19 years to discuss such a simple matter?” Ng was then asked.

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The court heard that medical staff told Ng Cheuk-yue’s family his heart had stopped temporarily.

The mother, Yeung Yuen-wah, has launched a lawsuit against the HKAAA and the government, to seek damages on grounds of negligence and breach of duty.

Dennis Ng was also invited to share statistics relating to the marathon,.

He described the 10km race Ng Cheuk-yue took part in as “entry-level”, which also was the most popular among the six races on the day, which included a full and half marathon. Half of the participants in next year’s event, he said, are expected to take part in the 10km race.

He also spoke of the fatality. “According to past figures, the number of deaths (related to the 10km race) is higher,” he said, though he did not disclose the exact figures.

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In the mother’s testimony, she said her son was a healthy and gentle person with no record of chronic disease. At the time of the accident, her son was studying to be an engineer, she said.

Yeung recalled seeing her son the night before the race and getting a call at 9am on the day that brought her to the hospital.

The mother was visibly shaken when she answered senior public prosecutor Pierre Lui’s questions.

Also summoned to court were two officers from the Auxiliary Medical Service, a voluntary organisation that provided first aid services at the marathons.

According to senior operations and training officer Andrew Chui Wan-chi, close to 800 volunteers, including 28 doctors, were sent to the marathon in 2015.

Chui also confirmed every first aid station on site was equipped with an automated external defibrillator. There were a total of 10 at the event.

The inquest continues on Friday.