At a press conference held on Sunday, the families of those who lost their lives in the Lamma ferry tragedy attacked the government for their handling of the accident investigation, slamming the Marine Department for failing to prosecute employees who were negligent in inspecting the vessel. They also criticised the Department of Justice (DoJ) for only providing a heavily redacted investigation report, making it difficult for families to seek compensation via a civil claim.
Mrs Ku, who lost a son in the disaster, said that she has filed a claim with the court to identify the employees who were negligent, but the content of the report given to her by the DoJ in June was substantially redacted, and did not give any details of names, locations or dates, Apple Daily reported.
The families believed that the vessel had sunk so quickly after the collision because watertight doors had not been installed, and that this suggested that the Marine Department had been negligent in failing to carry out vessel inspections properly. Neither of the two officials prosecuted by the Department of Justice so far face charges relating to vessel inspections.
“It’s been a rough three years going after those who are responsible…I can’t pretend that the matter has already been resolved,” Mrs Ku said. “It feels like the DoJ is transcendent, they can just cover up for the Marine Department’s employees with the wave of a hand.” She also said that the government has failed to issue death certificates for the 39 victims, even though it has been three years since the accident.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has promised to meet with the families of the ferry disaster victims alongside criminal prosecutor Yeung Ka-hung and an overseas barrister. A spokesperson from the DoJ said that the investigation report has not been revealed in its entirety because it may affect future criminal proceedings or disciplinary procedures, Cable TV reported. The Department also said that it will not at present comment as to whether more people will be prosecuted in future.
James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party, who has been assisting the families, told Apple Daily that the Department of Justice should explain why only two people have been charged even though an earlier investigation found that over a dozen Marine Department employees ought to be prosecuted over the incident. He also said the DoJ should find a way to allow the families to read the full report under conditions of confidentiality.
On October 1, 2012, a Lamma passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan, killing 39 people, in one of Hong Kong’s deadliest ferry accidents. This year, the captains of both vessels were found guilty of manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea.