Ferry crash injures 76

Updated: 2011-10-22 07:12

By Guo Jiaxue (HK Edition)

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 Ferry crash injures 76

Ferry crashes into a mooring dolphin inside a Cheung Chau typhoon shelter on Friday morning. Inset: Close-up of the collision. Provided to China Daily

Three elderly people seriously hurt as vessel hits mooring post

Seventy-six people were injured when a ferry collided heavily with a mooring pillar inside a typhoon shelter at one of Hong Kong's outlying islands early on Friday morning.

Three senior citizens, ranging in age from 70 to 82, who were seriously hurt, remain in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital. One of them had been in critical condition for a period.

The mishap occurred at 5:15 am, about an hour before sunrise.

A ferry operated by New Word First Ferry company, carrying 145 passengers, sailed from Cheung Chau pier, bound for Central.

Many of the passengers were sleeping, when just five minutes after the time of sailing, there came a loud crash that propelled forward nearly all on board.

The 29-meter long, double-deck ferry struck the mooring post located only about 400 meters from the pier, inside the typhoon shelter.

The starboard side of the ferry's bow was badly holed, leaving the interior steel exposed. Fortunately the vessel took in no water.

The cabin of the ferry, however, was left in chaos. Some people fell; many suffered wounds to their heads; many were bleeding, one survivor recalled.

It took a half hour for rescue crews to arrive.

A helicopter took nine seriously injured patients to hospitals on Hong Kong Island, including two elders lying on stretchers.

The three most seriously injured elders remain in ICU; a fourth senior remains in hospital for observation.

All of them came from the same family. They planned to go downtown with the daughter of one of the couples.

The four were all left prostrate following the crash, according to the daughter, whose surname is Chan.

She added the four had suffered multiple injuries to pelvis, lower backs, heads, and necks.

Chan said her 70-year-old aunt had been critically hurt, but her condition later was stabilized.

Chan complained that the ferry staff failed to provide proper assistance. The passengers helped each other before rescuers came, she said.

Divisional Officer of the Fire Services Department Chan Wai-Ho said that the most seriously injured passengers were sitting near the entrance and exit of the vessel and were likely thrown onto the metal handrails.

Captain Cheung Ming-wai, 34, explained that he was trying to avoid a floating navigation light on the portside of the vessel. When he observed the mooring pillar on the starboard side, it was already too late.

The captain with 10 years of experience blamed the mooring pillar.

"We need to rely on lights. But it has none. So my judgment went wrong," he told reporters. He was slightly injured. It was his last sailing before going off duty.

The ferry company and the Marine Department will examine the cause of the crash.

Cheung has been temporality suspended from duty.

The ferry company has yet to confirm whether human error was involved.

It will also examine the ferry to see if there is any mechanical failure.

Manager of the Maritime Services Training Institute Tony Yeung said he finds it difficult to believe that the captain failed to see the mooring pillar.

Yeung said there were other light sources near the pillar.

He added he believes speed may have been a factor, considering the damage to the vessel and the number of injuries.

An initial finding of the Marine Department's investigation indicated that the ferry deviated from the navigational fairway, and already entered into a mooring area.

The department said it will "pay special attention to the speed" of the ferry at the time of collision.

guojiaxue@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 10/22/2011 page1)