Hong Kong courts

Driver of Hong Kong tram that overturned outside Bank of China HQ admits speeding at twice limit

Lo Chi-leung pleads guilty to one count of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving over accident last year that left 11 passengers in hospital

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 6:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 11:04pm

The driver of a Hong Kong tram that overturned and left 11 passengers in hospital last year admitted in court on Tuesday that he had been speeding at about twice the limit as he wanted to get home sooner.

The District Court heard how Lo Chi-leung, 24, had been driving tram No 123 at between 28.2km/h and 31.2km/h when the accident took place on a bend outside the Bank of China on Des Voeux Road Central in Hong Kong’s financial district on April 6.

Internal company guidelines from operator Hong Kong Tramways fix the speed limit for trams entering normal bends such as the one at the accident site at 15km/h.

The tram derailed and wobbled left then right, hitting a nearby tram stop. It then toppled onto its left side. The crash damaged a shelter roof at the tram stop and a pedestrian railing.

Eleven passengers were sent to hospital, nine with minor injuries.

But Wong Kin-chuk, 64, suffered a teardrop fracture to his spine, partial dislocation of his left shoulder joint, and a sprained neck and left shoulder joint. He was in hospital for 20 days, during which surgery was required.

Another passenger, Joe Wong Yiu-chor, 59, was in hospital for four days due to a fractured left clavicle and left scapula, tenderness over his left shoulder and upper back, and superficial abrasions to his right hand.

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Lo was also injured, with superficial abrasions found on his left knee and arm. He was arrested shortly after the accident. At the time he told police a bus had hit the tram, causing it to derail.

But subsequent investigations found no significant scratch or dent on the bus, indicating it was unlikely the vehicle had seen any impact with another object. It was also concluded that the tram had no irregularities in its braking system or electrical and mechanical parts.

On Tuesday Lo pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving, an offence punishable by seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$50,000 fine.

He apologised to the victims and the company through his legal counsel Nelson Lam, who argued Lo had held no intention of causing serious harm.

“The time was almost midnight,” Lam told district judge Tam Sze-lok. “There was less traffic, fewer passengers, fewer road users, and unwittingly he allowed himself to enter into a situation more reckless, and he tried to go faster so he could go home to see people dear to him.”

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Thirteen certificates of appreciation and 14 letters were submitted in support of Lo during mitigation, including one from Lo himself expressing his remorse over the accident.

He will be sentenced on March 14, pending background reports.

The court heard how Lo was a married man and from a devoted Christian family, with a brother who shared his interests in engineering and motor vehicles.

Prior to joining Hong Kong Tramways in January 2016, Lo captained ferries to Macau and worked at the local restaurant chain Café de Coral.

The last case of a tram overturning was back in 1983 when a concrete mixer rammed into one in Shau Kei Wan, injuring 21 people. In 1964 a speeding tram toppled over at a double bend in Admiralty, injuring 59 and killing one.