The High Court on Thursday turned down a request by relatives of some of the victims of the Lamma ferry collision 10 years ago for a coroner’s inquest to be held.
On the night of October 1, 2012, the Lamma IV ferry collided head-on with another vessel and sank within two minutes, killing 39 people.
The coxswains of the two vessels were later convicted of manslaughter and endangering the life of others at sea, for failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take action to avoid the crash, among other things.
An independent inquiry led by a High Court judge was held from December 2012 to March 2013 and looked into the collision as well as the structural causes that led the Lamma IV to sink so quickly.
The coroner's court had earlier refused to hold a hearing. But adopting evidence from the independent inquiry and the criminal case, it ruled that the deceased were unlawfully killed.
Three people, who are relatives of four of the deceased passengers, subsequently asked the High Court to order a coroner's inquest on the grounds that the criminal proceedings and the independent inquiry were not enough to reveal “the whole truth of the deaths”.
Their lawyer had indicated that the litigation was supported by families of 17 others who died in the tragedy.
But in a written judgement on Thursday, Justice Russell Coleman rejected their bid.
“It is understandable that family members would naturally want to trace every detail of how their loved ones met their death,” he said.
“But the public interest does not require the unravelling of every possible factual detail through a death inquest.”
Speaking after the ruling, one of the applicants, Chiu Ping-chuen, said he was very disappointed.
“We will discuss with our team of lawyers on what to do next… I think there’s still room for further explanation of details of how the Lamma tragedy happened. This ruling is very disappointing,” he said.
James To, a solicitor who has been assisting the families, said the absence of a coroner’s inquest means family members have been unable to scrutinise some evidence that emerged during police investigations into the collision.