A Customs and Excise Department boat capsized in the sea near Sha Chau, an island off the Tuen Mun coast, on Tuesday night, killing three of the five persons who were on board the vessel.
The accident, the cause of which is still being ascertained, happened as the customs officers were undertaking an anti-smuggling patrol in the waters not too far from the airport.
The dead included a 43-year-old female senior customs officer, who was a mother of three, and two male officers aged 39 and 27.
They all belonged to the Marine Enforcement Group of the Customs’ Ports and Maritime Command.
Expressing deep sadness at the news of the officers’ deaths, customs chief Hermes Tang Yi-hoi offered condolences to the families of the deceased, the government said in press release issued in early hours of Wednesday.
A customs vessel was conducting a patrol at the waters near Sha Chau around 9 pm last night and five officers onboard fell to the sea, the press release said.
Police are investigating what exactly happened that caused the tragedy.
The capsized boat was later towed to the Airport Fire Contingent West Sea Rescue Berth. A smuggling boat suspected to be linked to the accident was towed to Marine Police Tai Lam Chung Base after the incident.
Collision marks are said to have been found on the body of the smuggling boat.
The Fire Services Department said one of its vessels reached the scene in about half an hour, and within 20 minutes rescuers had found three officers trapped and unconscious inside the 11-metre-long vessel, RTHK reported.
They were certified dead on arrival at hospital. Two crew members were rescued with only minor injuries.
After learning about the deadly accident, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed shock and sadness over the passing of the three officers and extended her deepest condolences to their families.
In a message from Davos, Switzerland, where she had gone to attend the annual World Economic Forum, Lam also expressed sympathy to the other two persons who were injured in the incident and said she hopes they will recover soon.
“Customs officers have always been fearless and dedicated to serving the public with professionalism. I am profoundly grieved by the unfortunate loss of three Customs colleagues who were on duty last night and I offer my deepest condolences to their families, Lam said.
“The Civil Service Bureau and the Customs and Excise Department will make every effort to support the families,” she added.
The capsized vessel, which was manufactured in China, was said to have been in use since 2016. The last time it underwent routine inspection was in March 2019, according to reports.
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