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Woman drowns as car backs off local ferry boat

FERRY boats to Chongming Island are raising their guardrails, and operators are considering other safety improvements after a woman backed her car off a vessel last Friday and drowned while her husband, son and many others looked on.

The car, which careened from a ferry owned by Shanghai Yatong Co Ltd, stayed afloat for about a minute while the vessel's crew and a maritime patrol boat stood by.

The ferry's crew members restrained the husband and his 18-year-old son, fearing they might also drown if they tried to save the woman.

Though crew members did toss a life preserver toward the floating car, a video clip of the incident posted on the Internet drew complaints from some Netizens who felt the onlookers failed to take prompt rescue action.

"I don't want to make the tragedy a public event, but I am expecting the Yatong company and the maritime safety administration to come to clear conclusions about what led to this accident and my wife's death ... and what they should do to ensure such things don't happen in the future. Only that can help my wife rest in peace,'' said Gu Yi, the husband of the victim, Cai Hongjian, a 39-year-old Chongming resident.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident, which took place at 2:40pm on Friday. The body of the victim was recovered along with her car later the same day, said Shanghai Yatong, operator of the city's ferry services to the island.

Cai, her husband and son were taking a boat from Baoyang Dock. The accident occurred as the woman was parking the car on the vessel while her family waited.

"She was following directions from a ferry worker to back the car when it suddenly sped up and plunged into the water," Fan Benxiao, a ferry company manager, told Shanghai Daily.

The sedan picked up enough speed to jump a 30-centimeter-high protection rail before it sailed into the water.

The car was half-submerged at first and floated for nearly a minute before it disappeared. During at least part of that period a maritime patrol boat was about 30 meters away.

A witness videotaped the sinking and posted the clip on Internet. Its airing created a controversy as some Netizens blamed the maritime officers for not rescuing the woman.

But the maritime authority explained that it would have been too risky for the patrol boat to take direct action and the men were not trained for such rescues.

"Actually, the two maritime officers on that boat were in close radio contact with the water rescue force during the incident," said a senior official with the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration.

"They feared that the approach of their boat would break the water surface and cause the floating car to sink," the official said.


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