Inquest told why falling protester missed air cushion

A former principal firefighter explained to the Coroner’s Court on Friday why a safety air cushion had not been set up closer to the spot where anti-government protester Marco Leung was standing before he plunged to his death from the Pacific Place mall.

Chan Che-kin, who was the commander on the ground, said they arrived on Queensway at around 4:50pm on June 15, 2019 and inflated an air cushion outside the mall.

But Chan said they couldn’t place the air cushion on the pavement below where Leung was standing, as there were metal railings in the way.

Chan said Leung, 35, fell to the pavement after 9pm, just in front of the safety cushion.

The former firefighter said he and his colleagues immediately gave first aid to Leung, who still had a pulse at the time, before an ambulance arrived and rushed him to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Chan said he had considered the possibility that Leung could miss the cushion if he fell, given its position.

He said he had thought of removing some barriers so they could place the cushion on the pavement, but had ruled out this option as it would be too risky for his colleagues to do so.

Chan explained that it would take about 50 minutes for firefighters to remove the barriers, and their safety would be in jeopardy if Leung fell down during that time.

He also said the Fire Services Department did not have a smaller air cushion which they could use for the situation.

The retired fireman said given the circumstances at the time, they had done their best to protect Leung’s safety.

Asked whether there were smaller safety cushions available overseas, Chan said he understood there were. He also admitted that there had been situations in the past when firefighters could not open an air cushion due to constraints at the scene.

Chan also said his team had not received any messages from colleagues at the mall before Leung’s fall, so they did not know what was happening above them and could not make any preparations accordingly.

The hearing is to continue on Monday, with more firefighters involved in the rescue operation expected to be summoned.