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Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

Court closes door on Lamma ferry inquest

A high court judge yesterday said the coroner does not need to open an inquest into the Lamma ferry tragedy that killed 39 people 10 years ago.
That came after a coroner had decided in November 2020 that it would not hold an inquest into Hong Kong's worst maritime tragedy.

Leung Shuk-ling, Chiu Bing-chuen and Tsui Chi-shing, whose loved ones were among the victims in the October 1, 2012, collision, appeared before Russell Coleman in September to push for an inquest.

In a written judgment, Coleman yesterday dismissed the application.

"It started as a celebration, but ended in tragedy," he wrote, expressing understanding of the desire of the applicants to know all possible details regarding their loss.

But he said the commission of inquiry's report and criminal prosecutions had concluded that the victims were unlawfully killed.

"But the public interest does not require the unraveling of every possible factual detail through a death inquest. I am not satisfied that public interest would require a death inquest to go into those additional factual details," he said.

"Indeed, I come to the conclusion in all the circumstances that I do not think that a death inquest ought to be held," he said, dismissing the application with no order as to costs.

The application, filed in June, was signed by two survivors and 23 family members of those who died in the hope of "finding the last piece of the puzzle in this tragedy."

Lawyers told the court in September the commission ignored some areas and that new evidence has emerged from the police probe.

The latter included the ferry manufacturer, Cheoy Lee Shipyards, knowing it had to install a watertight door but didn't.

A government probe also revealed that 17 Marine Department officers failed to spot the problem for 18 years, which resulted in seawater entering the vessel, trapping passengers.

Chiu, the younger brother of a victim, Siu-king, expressed disappoinment over the lack of an investigation of staff of Cheoy Lee Shipyards and the department.

"I don't it's enough for now. We felt so disappointed with the judgment. I can tell you, we have already come to a dead end [on the legal challenge]," Chiu said.

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