Firefighter dies after falling from cliff during hiker rescue

March 23, 2017 11:24
Yau Siu-ming (inset) lost his life following a heroic attempt to rescue two people who were stranded in the Tiu Shau Ngam mountain range. Photos:, HKEJ

A senior fireman died after falling from a cliff while he and his team were attempting to rescue two stranded hikers in a country park in the New Territories on Wednesday.

Principal firefighter Yau Siu-ming, 51, succumbed to his injuries after a fall during a rescue operation in Tiu Shau Ngam (吊手岩) in Ma On Shan Country Park, several newspapers reported.

The accident took place at about 5 am as Yau was climbing a hill in a bid to reach two hikers who had apparently lost their way in the mountain ridge. 

As he was climbing, the firefighter slipped and fell 10 meters down to the bottom of the cliff. 

As the mountains are very steep, other firemen had to walk four kilometers to find Yau, who was lying unconscious on the ground, according to the reports.

After a long struggle, they managed to reach him and move him to the Prince of Wales Hospital.

The whole process took more than 10 hours, resulting in Yau making it to the hospital only at about 4 pm.

Doctors pronounced him dead due to serious head injuries, causing immense sadness to Lau's colleagues and grief to his family.

Yau, who had served at the Tin Sum precinct for about seven years, leaves behind a wife and a 6-year-old son.

According to the police, two hikers -- a 32-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman -- called in for help at about 7 pm on Tuesday.

The callers told the police that they were stranded in the mountains but they could not give their specific location.

The Fire Services Department then dispatched a total of 250 firemen for a search and rescue operation.

Given the terrain, five helicopters from the Government Flying Service were also pressed into service.

As there was thick fog and rain, the rescue team managed to locate the hikers -- both of whom are said to be airport security workers -- only at around 1 am. 

The duo was pulled to safety and sent to a hospital. According to reports, they suffered only minor injuries.

So, it was just firefighter Yau who had to pay a heavy price in the whole incident.

After hearing the news, Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok expressed his condolences to Yau’s family. The Fire Services Department, meanwhile, promised all possible support and help to the bereaved family members.

With a height of 588 meters and a steep footpath leading to it, Tiu Shau Ngam, which is notorious for slippery rocks, had seen accidents earlier that killed hikers.

Chan Hon-tong, deputy chairman of the China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union, described the difficulty of climbing Tiu Shau Ngam as 4 on a scale of one to five.

Several experts warned that the mountain ridge is not suitable for beginner hikers.

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