A coroner has found that the death of a student crushed by a movable slide in a haunted house at a Hong Kong theme park two years ago was an accident.
Cheung Chiu-kit, 21, died of back injuries after he mistakenly approached the rear of the mechanical ride inside the Buried Alive attraction at Ocean Park on September 16, 2017.
On Monday, Deputy Coroner Monica Chow Wai-choo found that Cheung took a wrong turn inside the two-storey space, because staff members who were supposed to show the way had either overlooked him or mistaken him for a colleague.
Chow stressed that the court would not hold anyone liable for what happened. She also did not offer any advice to the park, since it had brought in extra safety measures since the accident.
Cheung's father, Cheung Kam-fong, did not respond to reporters' queries as he left court.
Meanwhile, an Ocean Park statement said it had kept close contact with the victim's family and settled all claims relating to the accident.
Cheung Chiu-kit died two days after the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department certified Buried Alive safe to run.
The court previously heard Cheung did not make for the exit of the slide section inside the haunted house, as he intended to, but backtracked towards a nearby slide, which had two halves. The base of the slide was attached to the ground, while a top half would descend to connect with it and form a complete slide.
As Cheung tried to climb over the stationary base, the top half came down and hit him on the back, killing him.
A government-registered engineer told the court the slide carried 480kg to 700kg of force when it descended, similar to the impact of six to 10 adults falling from above.
The autopsy report showed Cheung sustained extensive bruises, ruptured muscles and fractured ribs. He then lost consciousness, in a squatting position inside the confined space, which made breathing difficult and eventually asphyxiated him.
Chow recorded that Cheung entered the wrong way because performer Lam Yau-sing, who was tasked with showing customers to the exit, stood in the wrong position and did not see him walk past.
Cheung then came to Gerald Medalla, another performer, who raised his hand to indicate the correct direction, but he might have ignored his gesture by mistake, Chow continued.
"Even if Cheung saw the performer's hand, he might well have believed it was part of an act to scare him, instead of taking it as an instruction," Chow said.
Cheung also escaped the attention of staff members who monitored the entire facility via surveillance cameras, as they were out of their seats when he walked by. Later, a backstage worker took a look into the back side of the slide from distance, but failed to notice Cheung due to the dim environment.
Cheung was found unconscious shortly after, and declared dead in hospital the same day.
Show director Joel Brett Talacko, who designed the attraction, told the court the park had revised safety protocols after the accident, which included setting a minimum number of employees supervising an attraction, and placing additional safety buttons and lights inside.
Since the accident, Ocean Park has not used mechanical features on similar rides.
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