A performance trainer at a Hong Kong theme park told an inquest on Tuesday at least two employees should have prevented the death of a student at a haunted house attraction there two years ago.
Wong Man-chun, a contractual trainer at Ocean Park, said the attraction – Buried Alive – was designed as a one-way track, and the performing staff inside would stop any player who trod the wrong way.
When 21-year-old student Cheung Chiu-kit set foot on the wrong path towards the machinery parts of a slide, at least two performers along the passage should have spotted and stopped him from going further, he told the Coroner’s Court.
He said he did not inquire further about how the incident skipped the eyes of the staff, as some performers were very upset and wept “copiously” following the mishap.
This was the second day of a probe into the death on September 16, 2017, of Cheung, who was found unconscious beneath a movable slide at the Halloween-themed attraction. He was pronounced dead in hospital the same day.
Show director Joel Brett Talacko said the two-storey haunted house had eight movable slides – two in each room – which ran parallel to each other. Two rooms with four slides were open to visitors at the time of the accident.
He said after the players descended to the ground, they were expected to walk along individual paths which converged at the exit, where a performer would spook the players to make them turn to the doorway.
But Cheung backtracked into a path leading to an adjacent operating slide, climbed over its stationary base, and disappeared from the sight of surveillance cameras, Talacko told the court. Shortly after that, the slide moved down and another player descended and left the room.
“He missed the exit to the remainder of the Buried Alive section,” Talacko said, adding the exit signs, which served as additional instructions along the way, were visible to players despite the dim environment.
Yip Po-shek, the contractual engineer in charge of the haunted house, said he could not locate Cheung who was lying beneath a slide in the control room, which oversaw the entire facility through 48 surveillance cameras.
Yip admitted he was not a government-registered engineer, and had only obtained a permit from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department three days before the accident to supervise the operation of the slides, a task that was outsourced by the park.
Chim Ka-seng, the supervisor of the haunted house, said his colleagues would walk through the entire house every 15 minutes to check if any item was lost or anything was not in order. They found no abnormalities before the accident.
But stage manager Chan Sze-lok, the park’s contractor, said within 15 minutes after the house was reopened to visitors in the afternoon session, he received a report that a slide malfunctioned and could not move up.
As he went to the scene and moved the slide up, he found an unconscious Cheung lying face down on its back side.
Talacko said after the accident, the park sought advice from safety consultants and reviewed operational plans before opening similar haunted houses the next year. They had also revised safety rules to assign a minimum number of employees to supervise the attraction, and installed additional safety buttons and lights inside.
“We did have a Halloween festival [the following year], but we did not have a similar design [for the haunted house]. Nothing of this magnitude. No mechanical effect at all,” Talacko said.
The performers at the attraction are expected to give evidence on Wednesday, the third day of the six-day inquest.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Inquest into Hong Kong ‘haunted house’ death: visitors had clear instructions on attraction, show director says
- Ticket prices at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park up nearly 4 per cent