Hong Kong officials face trial over ferry tragedy

HONG KONG - Two Hong Kong government officials charged over the city's worst maritime disaster in four decades, which claimed 39 lives, will go on trial in late May, reports said Wednesday.

The case follows the jailing of two boat captains for the 2012 collision between a high-speed ferry and a pleasure boat following a gripping 60-day trial.

The two marine department officials had their case referred to a higher court in the southern Chinese city during a hearing at a magistrates' court Wednesday, reports said.

Retired senior boat inspector Wong Kam-ching has been charged with "perjury" and marine department assistant director So Ping-chi with "misconduct in public office", according to the city's judiciary website.

Both Wong, 60, and So, 58, are on bail and will face trial at the District Court on May 26, reports said. The duo were charged in March.

The collision raised questions over safety in the crowded waters of Hong Kong, one of the world's busiest ports, with an inquiry pointing to a "litany of errors" that caused the disaster.

Victims could have had vital extra minutes to escape if the Lamma IV pleasure boat had been equipped with a watertight door, while several were actually left trapped when seats fell on top of them, the inquiry found.

Most of the 39 people including eight children, all from the Lamma IV, died at the scene of the October 1 crash in 2012.

High-speed ferry skipper Lai Sai-ming was found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 people in the collision between his vessel and the Lamma IV and jailed for eight years in February.

Chow Chi-wai, who was piloting the Lamma IV with 120 people on board, was jailed for nine months for endangering others' safety at sea. He was acquitted of all 39 manslaughter charges.

It was the city's most serious maritime accident since 1971, when a ferry between Hong Kong and Macau sank off the island of Lantau during a typhoon, killing 88 people.