Let us not point fingers in haste

Let us not point fingers in haste

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HK Electric's boat lies half-submerged after the accident.
HK Electric's boat lies half-submerged after the accident.
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP
For Hong Kong citizens, October 1 was a heart-breaking day. Thirty-nine lives were lost when a boat - owned by Hong Kong Electric - collided with a vessel from Hong Kong Kowloon Ferry (HKKF) near Lamma Island. The boat capsized and sank within minutes.

The event happened during a national holiday. Many of those who died were relatives of the power company's employees. The company also lost seven of its employees. One of them was a mechanical engineer and a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of which I am also a member.

The institution and I are saddened by this unfortunate and tragic event. We express our condolences to his family.

Pundits and commentators were quick to point fingers when trying to find out who was responsible for the tragedy. Ordinary citizens, too, have come forward to share their experiences and observations.

Some argued that the Hong Kong Electric boat travelled at a dangerously high speed. Others pointed out that the HKKF ferry inappropriately left the scene without offering assistance to the other boat's passengers.

As an engineer, I would say that it is too early to jump to conclusions about who was responsible.

Bear in mind that maritime laws and regulations, upon which correct and impartial judgments should be based, are very complex. Without the proper details about what happened during the accident and what led to it, we are likely to draw rash conclusions, which may be unfair.

Instead of wildly guessing who was right or wrong, the media should keep the public up to date about new evidence and facts. It should also explain maritime laws, codes and practices. Not least, we should be aware of basic marine engineering. That's how we can draw objective and fair conclusions.

In times of grief, people are naturally angry and confused. But what we need are clear heads and more information.

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