Hong Kong’s Labour Department and police will investigate the deadly collapse of a tower crane at a construction site, Chief Executive John Lee has said, and will ensure that families of the three killed and six injured are compensated.

John Lee
John Lee speaks to the press on September 8 after a deadly construction site accident claimed three lives. Photo: RTHK, via screenshot.

The 65-tonne tower crane collapsed at a Hong Kong Housing Society building site on Anderson Road in Sau Mau Ping on Wednesday morning. The three men who died were aged 22, 25 and 41, according to the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims.

Lee said on Thursday the Labour Department would probe the reasons for the collapse and who should be held accountable. Police would also investigate and a “thorough report” would be submitted to the coroner to decide whether an inquest should be held.

“If any person is found to have committed acts of negligence, there willl be criminal investigations,” Lee said, adding that “the government will make sure [the families of the casualties] will receive appropriate compensation.”

falling crane anderson road sau mau ping
Photo: 建築業揸機手足 via Facebook.

Lee said the Labour Department has ordered the contractor in question to halt crane operations at all of its building sites. The department would also inspect cranes across the city.

The chief executive urged the legislature to act quickly to pass a draft law to raise the maximum sentence under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance from six months’ imprisonment to two years and the maximum fine from HK$500,000 to HK$10 million.

The Hong Kong Housing Society said it would provide HK$300,000 to the families of each deceased worker and HK$100,000 to the families of those injured as “immediate assistance.”

It said in a statement on Wednesday it was “following up closely” with the main contractor, Aggressive Construction Company. The subsidised housing project for about 1,400 flats was scheduled for completion by 2025, according to the Housing Society.

Possible mistakes during set up

Structural engineer Ngai Hok-yan said the collapse could have been caused by mistakes in building the base of the crane. Based on photos on local media, Ngai told Commercial Radio that it looked like the two sets of metal beams supporting the base of the crane had not been connected properly.

falling crane anderson road sau mau ping
The feet of the fallen crane was connected to a metal beam. Photo: 建築業揸機手足 via Facebook.

“Therefore when there was an external force, it began to tilt towards one side. And because [the base] was not well connected, the crane’s base and the metal beams below flipped over altogether,” he said.

The engineer said the accident was rare in that the crane was not lifting a load when it toppled and might involve negligence.

He said existing legislation already required multiple registered personnel to ensure the safety of structures at a construction site. On top of that, contracts let by the Hong Kong Housing Society would normally stipulate certificates from an independent engineer.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.