Dancer struck by falling video screen at Mirror concert in Hong Kong may be paralysed from neck down

The damaged screen after it crashed and hit two dancers.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A dancer was in a critical condition on Friday and could be paralysed from the neck down after being struck by a heavy video screen that fell onto the stage where popular Canto-pop band Mirror was putting on a concert in Hong Kong the night before, the Post has learned.

Two members of the group and about a dozen dancers were on stage at Hung Hom Coliseum when suspension wires holding the screen high above the performers appeared to snap and it fell directly on top of Mo Lee Kai Yin, 27. A second dancer, Chang Tsz Fung, 29, was also injured, and the pair were taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

A medical source told the Post the impact dislocated the third and fourth section of Lee's cervical vertebrae, leaving him unable to move his limbs. His head and lungs were also injured.

Lee underwent surgery on his vertebrae overnight and returned to the operating theatre again on Friday for another eight-hour procedure, a separate medical insider said. The procedure managed to stabilise his spine, although the dancer now had to be intubated, with his condition classified as critical "for a technical adjustment".

Whether Lee will be paralysed depends on the progress of his recovery and if his damaged nerves will grow back, according to the source.

Chang was discharged on Friday afternoon.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka Chiu vowed on Friday (July 29) to conduct a timely and comprehensive investigation into the incident, while sparing no effort in ensuring that the family members of one of the victims could return from Canada to see their loved one.

Asked whether Lee's family members would be exempted from Hong Kong's seven-day hotel quarantine on compassionate grounds, the city leader said: "Our Health Bureau has proactively reached out to his family and proposed that upon their arrival, a hospital visit is arranged for them."

The concert organisers also announced the cancellation of the remaining shows in the 12-gig series, assuring fans their tickets would be refunded.

Lee stressed that a probe would proceed in a prompt and comprehensive manner. "The involvement of high-level [officials], to ensure matters will be given attention and dealt with appropriately, is also important," he said.

Authorities also revealed their preliminary findings of the Thursday incident, with Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun Hung conducting an initial inspection of the show venue at the Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom.

"A preliminary inspection suggests that a metal cord has snapped, causing the screen to fall down," Yeung said, reiterating the government's deep concern over the incident.

"The safety of the stage is very important. It is very important to performers," he added, pledging to look into the matter with a task force set up under the Leisure and Culture Services Department, which would work with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department and Labour Department to study the cause of the accident.

Yeung said the probe could last for a few weeks, and authorities would approach other performing groups to examine the risks for their acts.

He refused to reveal the identity of the contractor involved in the set-up of the problematic screen at the Mirror concert.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk Han said authorities had ordered all activity under the remaining screens at the venue to be suspended, and for organisers to work with relevant officials before removing the devices.

PHOTO: South China Morning Post

He said officers from the Labour Department had already visited the venue to collect evidence and would carry out enforcement action, including laying prosecutions under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance if necessary.

Sun also suggested anyone who felt uncomfortable after watching video clips of the concert should chat with friends and family to set their minds at ease. The Social Welfare Department hotline can also refer those in need to counselling services, according to him.

Yeung said experts would examine the suspension wires in question and ascertain if the incident was centred on operational procedures or the actual material of the cables.

"We will embark on a very detailed investigation with the support of relevant departments and some professionals to make sure we delve deep into the cause of the incident," Yeung said, adding authorities would make necessary adjustments to procedures and standards to ensure future events would be safe for performers and audiences.

"It is our responsibility and determination to ensure a similar incident will not happen again," he said.

MakerVille, which manages the 12-member Mirror group and other ViuTV artists as the entertainment business arm of telecoms company PCCW, and show organiser Music Nation said in a latest statement that they were working with the authorities, as well as the contractor and subcontractors behind the stage structures, to carry out a thorough probe.

The share price of PCCW, listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, was down 0.7 per cent.

PHOTO: South China Morning Post

"If we detect any suspicion of impropriety by anyone or unit involved, we will contact police immediately," the statement read, adding that the organisers had met officials over the matter.

The band was performing their fourth show when the mishap struck, with previous concerts already plagued by minor safety incidents, one of which involving a Mirror member falling off an elevated stage, resulting in an abrasion.

At about 10.30pm on Thursday with the show under way, one of the giant screens in the air, measuring four metres in length, appeared to break off from suspension wires, crashing onto the stage and hitting two dancers performing with boy band members.

The two male victims, aged 27 and 29, were rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. According to a Hospital Authority spokesman, one of the performers suffered neck injuries and was in a serious condition in intensive care. The other dancer sustained injuries to his head and was listed as stable.

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Parents of the severely injured dancer will travel back to Hong Kong from Canada on Saturday, according to Crossroad Community Baptist Church, which urged the public to pray for the couple's son.

Yeung said authorities had been informed that the family members were returning from overseas, and the government would "spare no effort" in arranging this.

"We have also approached the Health Bureau to communicate with the [family members]. In terms of the exact arrangements, we will make our best efforts to satisfy them, but of course we have certain pandemic requirements," he said.

"We understand the urgency of the family members. We will try our best to strike a balance."

Three female audience members, aged 16, 21 and 40, were also treated for shock on Thursday night, with one sent to hospital.

The government ordered the remaining concerts to be suspended until stage sets at the venue were checked and proved to be safe.

MakerVille and Music Nation apologised over the incident and pledged to help the injured dancers and their families. The organisers also confirmed all eight remaining live and online Mirror shows would be cancelled, and announcements on refunds would be made as soon as possible.

LeaderJohn said in a statement early on Friday he was shocked over the accident and ordered the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and related authorities to thoroughly investigate the case and review safety requirements.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.