- Operations began at daybreak on Friday, more than three months after horrific incident that left dancer Mo Li critically injured
- Four of five suspects are from main stage contractor Engineering Impact Limited, while one is from subcontractor Hip Hing Loong
Hong Kong police have arrested five people in connection with the case of a falling giant screen that critically injured a dancer during a concert by boy band Mirror, after officers found some equipment was up to seven times the weight declared.
The five suspects, some arrested for fraud and for allowing objects to be dropped from height, were targeted in the operation that began at daybreak on Friday, more than three months after the shocking accident at the Hong Kong Coliseum on July 28.
Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit accused Engineering Impact Limited, the principal contractor of the concert, of deliberately under-reporting the weight of the stage equipment in a bid to mislead the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to hasten a government approval process for the show.
He said the data was submitted to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for approval on July 25, days before the first show started, adding that the LED screen involved encountered an operational issue during a test run on the morning of the accident.
Chief Inspector Chow Chun-choi of the same unit said security camera footage showed staff from subcontractor Hip Hing Loong climbing on the LED screen to carry out adjustment works on the panel, and a related steel rope, hours before it crashed onto the stage. “We cannot find any evidence that the company had arranged any authorised person or engineer to inspect or check the LED panel,” he said.
Superintendent Chung said the investigation also indicated Engineering Impact and Hip Hing Loong did not take any measures to ensure that the mechanical devices and cables, which had been bought from a mainland Chinese supplier, had met safety requirements.
“Our investigation also revealed that after the completion of the installation of the lifting devices, no one had arranged authorised or qualified engineers to carry out a thorough inspection to ensure the lifting devices could operate safely,” he said.
The most severe under-reporting centred on eight sets of speakers on the stage. According to police, the sets weighed 12,240lbs (5,552kg) – about seven times more than the contractor’s reported weight of 1,600lbs.
For the six LED screens in the stadium, which weighed a total of 9,852lbs, Engineering Impact Limited had under-reported their weight by 63 per cent at 3,600lbs. A structure installed with lighting devices weighed 5,141lbs in total, about 4.8 times more than the main contractor’s reported weight of 1,080lbs.
Laser lights and their related mechanical devices weighed 756lbs, about 3.7 times more than the 200lbs declared by Engineering Impact Limited
“There were lots of factors that caused the accident, and the numerous under-reported weights could just be one of them,” Chung said, adding that police believed the main contractor did not disclose the correct weights because it wanted early approval for the concert.
“If the contractor had declared the actual weight, they might have been required to recalculate the ceiling’s load bearing and redesign the installation, which might have increased costs,” he said.
The five suspects, aged 40 to 63, were arrested in a series of raids in Lam Tin, Ma On Shan, Pat Heung, Shau Kei Wan and Tai Kok Tsui.
Four of the five suspects were staff members from Engineering Impact Limited, comprising a business director, two project managers and a technical coordinator. The fifth suspect was a senior technician from Hip Hing Loong.
According to police, the four employees from Engineering Impact Limited were detained on suspicion of fraud and allowing an object to fall from height, while the Hip Hing Loong staff member was arrested for allegedly allowing an object to fall from height. As of Friday afternoon, all the suspects were still being held for questioning.
Superintendent Chung said police maintained regular contact with the family of dancer Mo Li Kai-yin, who was seriously injured in the accident. “In the past three months, he was lying in bed in hospital and could not take care of himself. We believe his path to recovery will be long,” Chung said.
He added that he hoped officers’ efforts over the past three months could bring some justice for those who were injured in the accident.
“No matter how many people are arrested by police today, how many people are prosecuted or even convicted by the court in the future, all of the above may not make up for what the injured [Li] lost in this incident,” Chung said.
He said Friday’s arrests did not mean that the police investigation had come to an end, adding that further arrests were possible.
The arrests were made hours before the release of a report compiled by the interdepartmental task force set up by the government to make recommendations and establish the cause of the accident.
Another source said the report had to be rewritten a few times after seeking advice from Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki and the Department of Justice.
On August 25, the task force presented its preliminary findings and blamed the under-reporting of the weight of the screen in question, the use of a substandard cable and an incorrectly installed rope guard.
In Hong Kong, those with intent to defraud who induce another individual to commit “an act or make an omission resulting in prejudice or a substantial risk of prejudice” to others can be jailed 14 years under the Theft Ordinance.
Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, dropping an object from a building and endangering or injuring a person carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a HK$10,000 (US$1,274) fine.
To secure evidence, detectives from the Kowloon West regional crime unit on September 13 searched the five offices and warehouses of Engineering Impact and Hip Hing Loong Stage Engineering Company.
Officers were targeting documents and plans related to the equipment that lifted, lowered and also rotated the screen. Police sought a court warrant to search for the material. The arrests on Friday were made after the force sought legal advice from the justice department, according to another source.
Dancers Li and Chang Tsz-fung suffered injuries during the band’s performance when the four-by-four-metre screen crashed onto the stage.
Li, who was severely injured, improved in condition from serious to stable in September, but still remains in Queen Elizabeth Hospital and is at risk of becoming paralysed from the neck down due to damaged vertebrae.
The latest update on Li’s situation from his father on October 7 revealed that a cervical collar had been removed and that the younger man could turn his head to see outside his ward for the first time since his injury.
The concert was the fourth of what was to be a series of 12 shows by the boy band. The rest of the concerts were cancelled after the incident. The interdepartmental task force, led by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, was set up by the government to determine the cause of the accident and recommend improvement measures.
The force is conducting a separate investigation into criminal aspects.
Concert organisers Music Nation and MakerVille released a statement on October 7, saying they selected the production crew based mainly on qualifications and not costs.
The two companies said qualifications and experience were primary considerations, including for the choice of the main contractor, which had been in the industry for more than 30 years and had worked in other parts of China, as well as having organised more than 600 concerts, including nearly half of recent events held at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
“We chose to hire teams considered top-notch in the industry, not cheaper, non-first-tier ones. Cost was not our primary consideration,” the statement said. The organisers did not name the concert’s main contractor. MakerVille is also Mirror’s management arm and comes under parent firm, telecoms company PCCW.