Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Hong Kong lift crash prompts urgent inspections of 300 identical models around city

A couple were seriously injured when the lift they were in continued its ascent without stopping and crashed into the top floor of a 46-storey residential block in Tsuen Wan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 3:13pm

A terrifying crash that left a Hong Kong couple fighting for their lives has prompted an urgent inspection of 300 lifts in the city.

The man and woman, whose condition had improved from critical to serious, were injured at 4pm on Sunday at Waterside Plaza on Wing Shun Street, Tsuen Wan, when the lift they were going up in failed to stop and crashed into the top floor of the 46-storey residential block.

Early signs showed that insufficient traction between a pulley and the suspension cables was the likely cause of the incident, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) said on Monday.

The department has ordered registered contractors to carry out a citywide inspection of 300 lifts of the same model in the next two weeks. After that, it will carry out its own random inspections.

The lift was manufactured by Dongyang Elevator, a South Korean firm later taken over by German multinational thyssenkrupp.

“The incident may have been caused by insufficient traction between the suspension cables and sheave [pulley] or it may be the malfunction of its braking system. The situation is rare,” the department said.

However, a similar incident in January 2014 occurred in Block 1 of the estate, although no one was injured. In that case, a lift under inspection ascended and smashed into the top of the lift shaft.

The lift contractor at that time, Ben Fung Machineries & Engineering, and a lift worker were prosecuted by the department later that year after it collected evidence that suggested proper inspection and maintenance procedures were not followed and human errors were involved.

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The current contractor, KONE Elevator (HK) Ltd, which is in charge of maintenance services for the lift, said the lift that crashed on Sunday had been in operation for 27 years. The last routine check was carried out on March 26 and everything was normal. A spokesman said there had never been any complaints of mechanical problems with the lift in question.

Couple in hospital after lift smashes into top of Hong Kong building

However, the lifts in the residential blocks were in the process of being “modernised”, the company said. Of the three lifts in each block, one had been upgraded, and the second was currently being worked on before contractors moved on to the third lift. The lift that crashed was the third lift in Block 2.

Waterside Plaza, which opened in 1991, is run by Sino Group. The company said it was concerned about the incident, and would cooperate with the investigation.

Sunday’s incident happened just after the couple, both 32, and a male resident got in the lift on the ground floor. The man got out on the seventh floor and the couple, who live on the 15th floor, continued their ascent.

“The lift continued to go up but failed to stop at the 15th floor,” a government source said. “It kept ascending until it smashed into the top of the lift shaft.”

The Post understands the lift was travelling at normal speed, or slightly faster, when it crashed, which is why the emergency braking system did not activate.

The crash brought the lift car’s ceiling crashing downwards, and the couple were injured and trapped inside.

Firefighters were called to the scene and rescued the pair, who were both reportedly conscious as they were transported to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung.

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The EMSD said an initial examination showed that the lift’s suspension cables were still intact.

A subsequent inspection of the other lifts in Block 1 and Block 2 of Waterside Plaza found no evidence of any other mechanical issues. The remaining two blocks would be inspected later.

The department said the investigation would also look at whether anyone was in breach of the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance.

KONE Elevator (HK) said it would cooperate with the EMSD, and check on all other lifts in the estate.