Three years after Lamma tragedy, victims' kin still seek answers

September 29, 2015 15:44
Families of the 2012 ferry disaster are demanding that the government release more details of an internal investigation report. Photos: Xinhua,

Family members of the 2012 Lamma Island ferry collision victims have blasted the government over perceived tardiness over the investigation into the disaster, pointing out that Marine Department officials are yet to be fully held to account for their lapses. 

The victims' relatives also hit out at the Department of Justice for withholding important data from an internal investigation report, Apple Daily reported.

As authorities are not making all facts public, it has become difficult to file for civil claims, the family members say.

A woman surnamed Ku, whose son died in the Oct. 1, 2012 ferry disaster, pointed out that the captains of both vessels -- Sea Smooth captain Lai Sai-ming and Lamma IV captain Chow Chi-wai -- were convicted of manslaughter by the High Court and handed prison terms.

However, Marine Department officials have largely escaped prosecution, even though the investigation report of an independent commission has confirmed that the department failed to spot the absence of watertight compartments during inspections of the vessels, Ku said.

The failure on the part of the officials led to the tragedy, as Lamma IV sank quickly after collision, she said.

The ferry collision on Oct. 1 three years ago killed 39 people and injured more than 90, in what was Hong Kong's worst maritime disaster in more than 40 years. 

When victims' families requested a copy of the investigation report, hoping to find out who at Marine Department had failed to perform their duties, the Justice Department provided the report in June, but with names, places and time taken out.

"It is a shame that the 39 victims have yet to be issued a certificate of death, three years after the disaster," Ku complained.

She said she is filing another petition in court to seek a full copy of the investigation report, and that she would subsequently seek civil compensation from the government.

Legislator James To, who has been assisting the victims, said some sources had suggested that over a dozen Marine Department officials could potentially face prosecution. However, in the end only two people were deemed to bear some responsibility.

Two marine officers were charged in March. So Ping-chi, 58, an assistant director in the Marine Department, faces one count of misconduct in public office, while retired senior inspector Wong Kam-ching, 60, was charged with perjury.

However, the charges were not related to the department's failure to detect the absence of watertight compartments.

The Justice Department should offer an explanation to the public on the matter, To said, adding that the victims’ families must also be allowed to read the investigation report in full.

Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, said he will meet with families of the victims on Wednesday to explain to them the progress of the prosecution.

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