image

Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Search continues for missing Hong Kong paraglider blown off course over Lantau Island

Patrick Chung, 44, could not be found after sudden gusts, known as ‘shi hu feng’, dispersed his group

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 8:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 11:08am

Rescuers on Tuesday morning continued looking for a paraglider who was blown off course over Lantau Island more than 40 hours after he was reported missing.

The search and rescue operation began on Sunday at about 7.40pm when Patrick Chung Yuk-wa, 44, could not be reached after his paragliding group members were dispersed by winds.

The 10 enthusiasts had taken off from Sunset Peak, also known as Tai Tung Shan, in Lantau South Country Park at 2pm on Sunday and were expected to land on a beach in Cheung Sha the same day, but sudden gusts – locally known as “shi hu feng” – reportedly blew them off course.

“The search continued overnight but had stopped momentarily at about midnight due to weather conditions,” a government spokesman said on Tuesday morning.

Typhoon standby signal issued as showers, storms and high winds hit Hong Kong

The rescue mission was still under way around Chi Ma Wan trail in Lantau as of 7am on Tuesday, the spokesman added.

The typhoon signal No 1 was issued on Monday afternoon and remained in force until it was cancelled at 10.40am on Tuesday, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

At 11am, the tropical depression was about 440km west of Hong Kong and was forecast to move northwest at about 18km/h across Guangxi, away from the city.

In addition to rescue services personnel, 30 to 40 pilots from local paragliding groups rejoined the search on Tuesday morning.

A Hong Kong Paragliding Association (HKPA) spokesman earlier said that Chung’s group had been forced to make an emergency landing. Three of them suffered minor injuries.

Chung, who was flying a purple, blue and yellow paraglider, was the only person unaccounted for.

The spokesman said the missing pilot was carrying a mobile phone and a walkie-talkie but could not be reached. He added that Chung should have water and food with him.

A scooter belonging to Chung was found parked on Shek Mun Kap Road near Tung Chung.

Paraglider seriously injured in Hong Kong after crashing into trees

According to the association, Chung’s friends had traced the last location of his phone to Lantau Peak.

Signals from the device were later also received by transmission stations at Shek Kwu Chau and Cheung Chau on Monday afternoon.

More than 200 officers from the police force, fire service and Civil Aid Service, as well as volunteers from the association, were involved in the search operation at its height.

Five teams of firefighters were combing the Lantau Trail, Lantau South Country Park, Tung Chung, Chek Lap Kok and Mui Wo, while a fireboat was deployed to Chi Ma Wan near Lantau South Country Park.

A government helicopter was also deployed and firefighters said a drone had been used to check cliffs and other dangerous areas.

But the search was hampered by downpours which forced the volunteers to stop. Police and firefighters were continuing their search on Monday night.

HKPA chairman Richard Threlfall said Chung was likely to have landed in trees and might be suspended below his glider, though it was difficult to tell which side of the peak he would be on.

“I am trying to coordinate all our members who are looking for Patrick,” Threlfall said.

A police source said Chung worked for a computer trading company, and officers had visited his Sha Tin flat but no one answered the door.

The source said Chung’s wife was on an overseas business trip but had returned to Hong Kong after learning of the accident.

The HKPA spokesman described Chung as an experienced paraglider with more than three years’ flying behind him.

A member of the Hong Kong Paragliding Federation, Chung helped manage the group’s Facebook page, he said.

The federation organises events for local paragliders, including safety talks, first-aid classes, and weather and aviation courses.

Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department has designated nine areas around the city for paragliding activities. Chung had been flying in one of the approved zones.

The paragliding association said it was a legal requirement for individuals wanting to paraglide in the city to have adequate insurance coverage. Due to sites being near populated areas, pilots must comply with local airspace restrictions.

Organisations offer different courses. According to X-Fly Paragliding Club, as long as pilots have completed a standard course and obtained a licence, they are eligible to fly in Hong Kong.

“Shi hu feng” is the local term for gusts associated with squall lines, according to the Hong Kong Observatory’s website. A squall line is a cluster of severe thunderstorms or storm cells along a line. They are fast moving and destructive, and lead to sudden changes in wind direction with an abrupt increase in wind speed.