Mystery still shrouds the death of a five-year-old girl on Cheung Chau, three days after her grandfather claimed the youngster fell to her death from a stationary half-metre-high electric tricycle.
Transit Jam has learned the case was initially entered onto the 999 report system as “NPR-PAI” (No police required – person accidentally injured), although the case-brief heading was later updated to “Abuse or neglect of child in custody”.
The girl’s grandfather, Mr Leung, 56, claimed he had parked his electric tricycle on a Cheung Chau lane Sunday lunchtime and was unloading shopping when the girl fell to the ground.
Leung called 999 at 12:12pm and “requested an ambulance without giving any further details”, according to a police source who then speculated that perhaps Leung had been “too worried” about the situation to give 999 call handlers any more detailed information about what happened.
Police were dispatched to the scene along with ambulance crews, as is standard procedure.
The kindergarten student had suffered massive head injuries, leaving a pool of blood in a gutter by a village wall, and died shortly afterwards in Cheung Chau Hospital. No arrests were made.
Deaths or serious injuries involving vehicles are usually classified as Traffic Accident Person Injured (TAPI) or TAPI-fatal. In fatal cases, the driver or most recent vehicle operator is almost always arrested for dangerous driving causing death.
“After preliminary investigation, [the girl] was suspected of falling from the body of an electric tricycle. The case is temporarily classified as abuse or neglect of children or juveniles in custody, and is handed over to the officers of the Cheung Chau Division to follow up,” said a police statement.
Police would not release recordings of 999 calls made and say they seized the vehicle involved, a souped-up electric trike with custom shock absorbers and a rally-style headlight.
Villagers say Leung was known for riding the electric trike “fast” around the lanes of Cheung Chau, although Leung told newspapers he rarely used the machine.
One Cheung Chau source believes the girl was thrown from the vehicle after it overturned while being driven.
Meanwhile other villagers expressed doubt on Leung’s claim that he “rarely used the e-trike” and that the family had most of their food delivered. Food delivery on Cheung Chau is not common, they say.
Other netizens have expressed doubt on the grandfather’s version of events, asking how a low fall could cause such a bloody death.
And medical experts who have studied child falls say a fall needs to be greater than about 1m to even cause any skull fracture. Indeed, authoritative studies show short falls rarely cause death. “As others have found, most [studied] ‘minor fall’ fatalities occurred under circumstances where there were no unrelated witnesses to corroborate the initial history,” writes one expert in the Journal of American Forensic Medical Pathology, discussing falls between 1.5 m and 1.8 m, finding that proper investigation of such deaths almost always finds another cause of death.
Police say there will be no more updates “this week” and no arrests have yet been made in the case, although a police source says it’s likely Leung will eventually be arrested for neglect of a child.
Meanwhile Cheung Chau police yesterday released a case brief titled “Cheung Chau Police Actively Combat Illegal E-Mobility Vehicles” and arrested one e-bike rider.