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Crew may face manslaughter charges in deadly Hong Kong ferry crash

By Alexis Lai, CNN
updated 6:52 AM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
Thirty nine people were killed in Hong Kong's deadliest maritime accident in decades, on October 1.
Thirty nine people were killed in Hong Kong's deadliest maritime accident in decades, on October 1.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Commission of inquiry into Hong Kong's deadliest boat crash in decades held preliminary hearing
  • Police may charge crew from both boats with manslaughter next month
  • Commission will not determine civil or criminal liability
  • Commission expected to deliver report in April

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Crew members of the boats that collided in Hong Kong's deadliest maritime disaster in decades may face manslaughter charges, according to the director of public prosecutions, who spoke Wednesday at the preliminary hearing of the commission of inquiry.

Thirty nine people, including eight children, were killed after a company-owned boat carrying Hong Kong Electric employees and their families was upended by a regular passenger ferry off Lamma, an outlying island. Revelers had been en route to Victoria Harbor to watch fireworks celebrating China's National Day on October 1.

Read: World's 'most delightful commute' hit by ferry disaster

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kevin Zervos, told the commission that he expects police to bring charges as early as next month against the seven crew members arrested from both boats.

On Friday, the commission's chairman denied all applications to adjourn the hearing to a later date.

Mourners accompanied by Taoist priests take boats on Thursday, October 4, to go to the scene of the boat collision that killed 38 people off Lamma Island, near Hong Kong, on October 1. They throw paper offerings for the dead into the sea. Mourners accompanied by Taoist priests take boats on Thursday, October 4, to go to the scene of the boat collision that killed 38 people off Lamma Island, near Hong Kong, on October 1. They throw paper offerings for the dead into the sea.
Deadly Hong Kong ferry crash
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Photos: Deadly Hong Kong ferry crash Photos: Deadly Hong Kong ferry crash
Ferry crash concerns many

Information presented at the public commission of inquiry would unduly influence potential members of the jury, Zervos had argued on Wednesday, requesting the commission postpone hearing evidence related to the cause of the collision. The chairman said that a judge in a criminal trial would instruct the jury to review evidence presented in court and ignore information they had received in any other way.

The chairman also rejected applications from lawyers representing the boat operators and crews to adjourn the hearing until next month. They had requested more time to review 30 boxes of government documents, compiled by rescue services, marine officials, and other departments.

The commission of inquiry was appointed in October to investigate the causes of the accident, assess safety practices of passenger vessels, and make recommendations to avoid similar incidents. It will not determine civil or criminal liability.

The hearing will begin on December 12. The commission is expected to submit its report to the Chief Executive, the city's leader, by April.

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