Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Heartbroken surviving family members of woman who died in lift at Hong Kong estate ask why rescue was not tried earlier

Questions also aimed at property management company over whether maintenance inspection was done carefully

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 8:19pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2018, 8:28am

Heartbroken family members questioned why a woman in her 60s was not rescued earlier but only found dead three hours after she was dragged and dropped to the bottom of a lift shaft at her private housing estate in Hong Kong.

They also aimed questions at the property management company over whether its maintenance inspections had been carried out carefully or merely as “a matter of routine”.

The fatal incident involving the mother of two took place on Friday – two days before Mothers’ Day – at Paris Court in Sheung Shui Town Centre on Chi Cheong Road.

Emergency services were called after a security guard told police the woman had been found unconscious inside the lift shaft. A police spokeswoman said the woman was certified dead by paramedics at the scene.

The victim, 64, surnamed Kwok, lived in a seventh-floor flat in the 25-storey building with her husband, surnamed Chan. Their son and daughter live with their own families.

Lawmaker and North district councillor Lam Cheuk-ting, helping the family, said the guard had heard a loud noise at 12.45pm on Friday and called the lift maintenance company, Eugene Engineering Co, to send inspectors. However, its staff did not arrive until some three hours later.

“Members of the family want a thorough investigation to find out why such a serious incident could have taken place after all the inspection and maintenance were said to have been done in February and May by the property management company,” Lam said.

“They also want to know what took the inspectors three hours to arrive at the scene,” he added, noting the company had yet to contact him or the family.

On Saturday, two of Kwok’s sisters asked Chow Hok-man, an executive manager of Sheung Shui Town Centre Property Management Company, why it had insisted there had been “no problem” with the lift.

My sister didn’t deserve to die in such a miserable way
sister of victim Kwok

“My sister didn’t deserve to die in such a miserable way,” Kwok’s elder sister said tearfully. “This is ridiculous. Your lifts have so many problems and you still insist they are fine?”

Kwok’s younger sister asked Chow: “You said the latest inspection was done on Wednesday. Was it done really carefully, or just as a matter of routine?”

“Do you consider it a game that the lift dragged and dropped a person to death? ” she added.

In response, Chow said: “We will ask the maintenance contractor to submit a substantial report. But at this stage, we are unable to provide any substantive details.”

Under its contract Eugene Engineering Co should arrive within an hour upon learning of any operational problems, he added.

Chow also expressed his condolences to the family over the “unfortunate incident”.

But he declined to respond to questions on whether he had sought an explanation from Eugene Engineering and its failure record for the lift in question.

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The contractor, which is responsible for the maintenance of some 300 lifts across Hong Kong, was unavailable for comment.

An Electrical and Mechanical Services Department spokesman said it had completed examinations of the remaining nine lifts at Sheung Shui Town Centre together with the concerned lift contractor on Saturday morning. All nine lifts were confirmed safe and had resumed operations.

The lift involved in the accident remained closed as the investigation was still under way.

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The department planned to look into whether the incident stemmed from a failure of the lift control system or a mechanical failure. The suspension ropes were found intact after the preliminary investigation, the spokesman said.

The department also requested other registered lift contractors maintaining the same brand of lifts to complete their special inspections within two weeks.

The lift involved in the incident was manufactured by Guangri, a mainland Chinese company, and was installed in 1992, according to Alfred Sit Wing-hang, director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. Some 90 lifts of the same model operate in the city.

Democrat Lam called on officials to review their supervision of the entire lift maintenance industry.

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“The regulatory authority may consider requiring installation of extra safety components on old models, such as a special brake that can stop the lift once an abnormal speed is detected.”

A general residents’ meeting at the estate is to be held on Monday to discuss the incident, the lawmaker said. Representatives from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Social Welfare Department and the property management company planned to attend.

Lam said the Social Welfare Department had offered counselling services to Kwok’s family members.