The wreck of a boat that sank in a collision off Hong Kong, killing 38 people, was examined yesterday after being hauled to shore as the city sought answers to its worst maritime accident in decades.
The Lamma IV was towed to a beach to reveal a gaping hole in its left rear, which was sheared off in the impact from Monday evening’s collision with the Sea Smooth ferry, which caused its stern to fill with water within minutes.
More than 120 passengers and crew were on the Hong Kong Electric company vessel to watch a huge National Day fireworks display when the accident occurred just off Lamma Island.
Investigators pored over the pleasure boat Lamma IV as they tried to piece together how such an accident could have occurred in one of the world’s busiest ports, which prides itself on its state-of-the-art transport infrastructure.
Police arrested the captains of both vessels on Tuesday along with five crew, who are all out on bail.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) announced three days of public mourning starting today, when funeral services for the victims are expected to begin.
He also called for an independent inquiry, as the accident raised questions about whether Hong Kong’s maritime transport infrastructure had kept up with demand from mainland visitors.
Prakash Metaparti, an assistant professor in Logistics and Maritime Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the accident was probably a case of human error.
“They should be able to navigate even in zero visibility with the radar. It’s surprising that they didn’t see each other ... they should have seen each other,” he told reporters.
He said the crew of the Lamma IV may not have followed basic safety procedures.
“I don’t think the children were wearing life jackets, and obviously there was no passenger list,” he said.
On the Sea Smooth, passengers said crew appeared to have no idea how to respond to the emergency.
Ferry operator Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings said its captain was a 20-year veteran and it would cooperate with the investigation.
General manager Nelson Ng, who lost two relatives aboard the Lamma IV, rejected allegations from Hong Kong Electric executives that the ferry abandoned the sinking pleasure craft.