Rubber tyre floating in sea suspected of causing Macau-Hong Kong high-speed ferry crash that injured 124 passengers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 October, 2015, 4:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2015, 8:52am

A one metre-diameter rubber tyre was retrieved near the site of a Macau-Hong Kong high-speed ferry crash this morning, prompting investigators to look into whether it caused an accident which left 124 passengers in hospital.

The tyre is believed to be a vessel fender, used to prevent damage during berthing, which fell into the sea. It was sighted floating by a Government Flying Service helicopter off Siu A Chau in the Soko Islands during a search shortly after 10am today.

READ MORE: Marine expert says ferry accidents like the one on the Macau-Hong Kong route are unavoidable

A marine police launch was then deployed to pick up the tyre before it was handed over to the Marine Department to investigate if it was linked to the crash, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

“Although it is made of rubber, it could have caused a heavy impact force as the ferry slammed into it,” the source said.

He said that so far, the tyre was the only floating object sighted near the site of the accident.

The Turbojet ferry, named Horta, was carrying 163 passengers and 11 crew on the way from Macau to Hong Kong when the accident happened at about 7pm last night.

Watch: 124 passengers injured in Hong Kong ferry crash

The high-speed ferry broke down and water began seeping in after it slammed into an unknown floating object near Siu A Chau.

“We believe that as one of the vessel’s two rear foil control activators hit an object, the boat automatically braked and its raised hull then lowered towards the sea surface,” the source said.

“It happened all of a sudden. This is why many passengers were thrown off their seats.”

WHAT HAPPENED: 'Everyone was bleeding': at least 100 injured as high-speed Macau ferry slams into unknown object near Lantau Island

A total of 124 people were injured in the incident.

Eight of them, who sustained serious injuries, were airlifted by Government Flying Service helicopters to hospital. Two marine police launches were deployed to take more than 110 people to the Central pier before being taken to hospital.

The injured, aged between six and 83, were sent to seven hospitals, with 87 discharged as of this morning. In addition to the five patients in critical condition, five were categorised as serious and 27 stable.

The two-deck ferry was towed to a Stonecutters Island shipyard where officers from the Marine Department went on board to carry out an investigation this morning.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the ferry hit a “floating object in the sea” while travelling a usual route.

“We still need the Marine Department and the police to investigate what the object was,” Cheung, who visited the injured at Eastern Hospital last night with health minister Dr Ko Wing-man, told RTHK this morning.

The ferry, operated by Shun Tak-China Travel Ship Management Limited, was damaged in the rear wing and engine room in the incident. Water also seeped into the boat, according to the company.

The firm said the vessel, which was carrying six life rafts and 246 life jackets, had its annual inspection in March.

It said the captain had been in his current position for 22 years and had 27 years of experience navigating the route.