Hong Kong Ferry Skipper Convicted Of Manslaughter

Two ferry skippers responsible for one of Hong Kong’s greatest maritime tragedies in over 40 years have finally had their day in court for the 2012 Lamma Island ferry crash that left 39 people dead. The South China Morning Post reports that Lai Sai-ming, skipper of the Smooth Sea, a ferry that collided with the Lamma IV, was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and of endangering the safety of others at sea.

Lai wasn’t the only ferry skipper to be held accountable for the accident. Skipper of the Lamma IV, Chow Chi-wai, also faced charges of manslaughter and endangering others for his role in the Hong Kong ferry catastrophe, but was acquitted today by a High Court jury of the manslaughter charges.

Chow was still found guilty of endangering the safety of others at sea, which carries a maximum fine of $200,000 and a prison term of four years. Lai could be sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter, the maximum penalty the law allows.

While the fines are high and terms lengthy, the penalties simply cannot ease the pain of the families who lost their loved ones to this preventable disaster.

Irene Cheng, who lost her son, Thomas Koo Man-cheung, to the ferry accident, stated: “To be honest, the rulings can’t compensate for the loss of 39 lives.”

Photographer Ryan Tsui Chi-shing is adamant that the verdict means nothing when considering the loss of life.

Ryan, who lost his eldest brother Tsui Chi-wai, and 10-year-old niece, Tsui Hoi-yin, expressed deep resentment and hostility towards the Hong Kong ferry skippers.

“Even if there was capital punishment in Hong Kong, it won’t be enough,” he said. “I won’t show them any sympathy. It doesn’t matter what punishment the court passes. This is Valentine’s Day.”

“We should remember how many people were separated forever from their loved ones. I will never forgive them.”

The accident happened on China’s National Day when the Lamma IV, a catamaran, was en-route to a fireworks display while carrying employees of Hong Kong Electric and their families. The BBC reports the vessel was struck by the ferry boat Smooth Sea after attempts at maneuvering away from the oncoming ship had failed, causing the Lamma IV to partially capsize but sinking the Smooth Sea, killing 39 passengers.

Several navigational errors and safety issues were blamed for the ferry incident, with both Hong Kong skippers blaming each other for the wreck.

Sentencing will take place on Monday.

Originally seven people were detained after the October, 2012, crash yet only the ferry skippers have been charged and convicted.

[Image courtesy of the BBC]