Ocean Park terror

December 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

Colleen Lee

Monday, December 06, 2010

An Ocean Park train ride ended in terror for visitors when a driver hit the wrong button, throwing passengers to the floor.

Seven travelers were injured on the funicular railway, one critically, in an uphill train when the driver of the one coming downhill accidentally braked – bringing both to a halt.

A 70-year-old passenger surnamed Lee was in critical condition with facial injuries in Queen Mary Hospital last night. Two of Lee’s front teeth were broken.

His 67-year-old wife, who injured her jaw and knees, was in stable condition at the same hospital.

A spokesman for the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said the driver mistakenly pressed the button which controls the track braking system when he felt sick.

It was the first incident since the Ocean Express, which connects the Waterfront and the Summit areas of the park through a tunnel at a speed of up to 10 meters per second, came into operation on September 9 last year.

The injured were among 63 passengers on the uphill train passing through the tunnel at 7.2 meters per second, or 25.2 kilometers an hour. Each trip normally takes around three minutes.

Both trains came to a sudden halt at 12.16pm. Passengers were thrown and sent rolling on the floor, with many falling from their seats or losing their balance while standing. There are no seat belts.

Three visitors, aged 36 to 71, were discharged from Ruttonjee Hospital, while two others, aged 25 and 41, were slightly injured and did not need hospital treatment.

Ocean Park said park personnel and the EMSD investigated the incident.

“Based on the investigative review, it has been determined that the cause of the abrupt stop of the Ocean Express funicular transportation system today was accidental and as a result of the operator on the attraction accidentally activating the track brake system,” it said.

A park spokeswoman declined to say whether the operator has been suspended and what disciplinary action he or she may face, saying it has to protect the driver’s privacy.

Park deputy chief executive Matthias Li Sing-chung apologized to all the 107 passengers, who were taken out of the trains 15 minutes after the accident. Both trains were pulled to a stop around 100 meters from the terminus.

A visitor surnamed Liu, who hurt his right knee, said he was fortunate because he was in a forward-facing seat on the train going uphill.

“So I did not fall to the rear of the carriage. The one who suffered the most serious injury was an old man sitting rear-facing in a front row. He rolled down and hit the carriage,” Liu said.

Another passenger, who was unhurt, said: “Around two minutes after the train started moving, I heard a loud bang and the train suddenly stopped. When it tried to resume moving forward, it slid back a bit and some people rolled down from the front.”

He also said he saw an old man lose some of his teeth, with his face covered with blood.

The Ocean Express was added to the theme park as part of its HK$5.5 billion redevelopment project.

It is a funicular railway and is operated on tracks by cables where ascending and descending carriages counterbalance each other. Designed and constructed by AECOM Asia, each train, with videos flashing ocean creatures on the ceiling of the carriage, can transport up to 5,000 passengers an hour by running through the 1.3km tunnel in Brick Hill.

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