The captains of two passenger ferries that collided off Hong Kong island killing 39 people, the city’s worst tragedy at sea in four decades, have been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter.
The accident saw one of the boats sink rapidly after its stern was rammed as it travelled from Lamma island to the city’s main harbour, taking 124 employees of local utility Hongkong Electric to watch the National Day fireworks on October 1 last year.
The other boat, one of Hong Kong’s public passenger ferries, continued on its journey to the Yung Shue Wan pier on Lamma island after the crash.
The accident shocked Hong Kong, where thousands use public ferry services through busy shipping lanes to get around the city’s islands and commute to and from work.
The government announced on Thursday that police had charged “two coxswains aged 54 and 56” in connection with the crash, with 39 counts of manslaughter each.
The men have previously been identified by local press as Chow Chi-wai, captain of Hongkong Electric’s Lamma IV, and Lai Sai-ming, 54, captain of the Sea Smooth, a public passenger boat.
Five other crew members, aged between 50 and 63, were also arrested the day after the accident last year and will be called in to answer bail in mid-April, the government said.
“The coxswains were charged today after police sought legal advice and they will appear before Eastern Magistrates’ Courts this afternoon,” it added.
Along with the 39 deaths, which included eight children, 92 other passengers were injured, many pulled from the sea by police, firefighters and other rescue services sent to the scene that night.
C.Y. Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, appointed a commission chaired by a high court judge to inquire into the tragedy the day after it happened. That body finished hearing evidence from more than 100 witnesses last month and is due to make its recommendations to the government later this month.
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