Hong Kong police have launched a criminal investigation into the collapse of a tower crane at a construction site that killed three workers and injured six others, according to the city’s leader.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu also said on Thursday that similar crane works under the same contractor had been suspended.
Police would carry out a comprehensive probe into the cause of the tragedy, and submit details to the Coroner’s Court to assess the need for a hearing, he added.
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Detectives from the Kowloon East regional crime unit, tasked with investigating the accident, returned to the site in Sau Mau Ping in the morning to gather evidence.
Lee said: “I am deeply saddened and extend my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and the injured ... The crime unit will investigate fully the cause of the accident that resulted in three deaths.
“Apart from suspending the use of other cranes on the Anderson Road site, the Labour Department will investigate any operation of tower cranes used by this contractor on other sites. Their operations will be suspended until approved by the department.”
The department will also examine all similar crane installations at construction sites across the city.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han, on a visit to the site on Wednesday, said he suspected the base of the 65-tonne crane in question had “obvious faults”.
Engineers also pointed to the possibility of poor workmanship in the welding of steel beams at the base of the unloaded crane.
Joseph Chi Wuh-jian, chairman of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers’ safety specialist committee, said while authorities would need time to ascertain the real reasons behind the accident, inadequate welding could be partly to blame.
“There were problems with the base [of the crane] ... But we need to conduct a detailed study and analysis before we can tell whether it was a major cause or the sole cause,” he said.
Chi added that before erecting tower cranes, engineers must carefully assess the load capacity of the structure, as well as external factors such as wind speed. There must also be on-site supervision to ensure that a tower crane was built in strict accordance with its approved design, he added.
Chi said he believed investigators would examine why the tower crane did not topple when it carried load in the past month, and yet collapsed on Wednesday when it was not bearing any weight.
The Housing Society and the main contractor, Aggressive Construction Company, said they would cooperate with the probe.
The crane collapsed just before 11am on Wednesday, crashing on six containers used as temporary offices at the site. Five of the nine workers involved were trapped in some of the containers and had to be freed by firefighters.
The three men killed – an electrician, an engineer and an engineering assistant – were aged between 22 and 41, with two certified dead at the scene and one later in hospital.
The engineer’s body was pulled from the wreckage seven hours after the collapse.
The Housing Society earlier extended its deepest condolences and would provide a lump sum of HK$300,000 (US$38,000) to the families of each deceased worker, and HK$100,000 to those injured.
Fay Siu Sin-man, chief executive of labour rights group the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, said it was contacting the victims’ employers for compassionate aid.
She said among the three dead, the family of the 41-year-old worker surnamed Hui was in the most difficult situation. Hui was an electrician and the family’s breadwinner, according to Siu’s group.
“The family has two children, aged four and seven, and the 22-year-old victim’s wife is suffering from illnesses,” she said. “The victim’s mother also has some diseases.”
At around 11.30am on Thursday, a ritual was conducted for Hui at the construction site.
According to Lam Ching-yee, an organiser with Siu’s group, the ceremony was attended by Hui’s wife, elder sister, father and another male relative.
They were joined by other construction workers, who bowed three times before offering an incense stick.
Lam added there had been many inquiries from private citizens, companies and organisations about donations to the affected families.
“All three families of the deceased workers agree that once our association has gathered all the donations we will distribute them,” Lam added.
According to government figures, 3,109 industrial accidents and 23 fatalities were reported in the construction sector last year. There were 2,532 accidents and 18 deaths in 2020.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Collapsed tower crane that killed 3 workers in Hong Kong suspected to have had ‘obvious faults’ at its base
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