The family of a man killed in a Kowloon City road crash won a race against the clock to retrieve the body and administer last rites after hitting a bureaucratic hurdle last week.
Crash victim Waheel Ahmed, 47, was riding his bicycle home on 5 December when an 80-year-old taxi driver passed out at the wheel and crushed Ahmed against an illegally-parked container truck.
Ahmed was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he died early the next morning. His body was taken to the Queen Elizabeth mortuary and his family, based in Kolkata, India, was notified of his death by friends.
But due to Hospital Authority rules on corpse handling, the family could not arrange for the release of his body to a friend.
“I had been calling the police so many times with no answer,” said his niece, Afreen Salim. According to Salim, the family needed to carry out the last rites within 13 days of his death. “It’s already been 7 days,” she told Transit Jam from Kolkata at the weekend.
The family said they were too “financially poor” to visit Hong Kong themselves. But hearing of the family’s plight, a Hong Kong-based pillar of the Indian community helped reach out to Hospital Authority and pressed the urgency of the situation.
The family in India arranged a court-stamped affidavit authorising a friend to take care of Ahmed’s body.
On Tuesday, the Hospital Authority and police confirmed they accepted the affidavits and that Ahmed’s remains would be released to the friend “after autopsy”.
Police said social workers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital would be assisting Ahmed’s friend in handling Ahmed’s funeral arrangements.
Ahmed’s niece Salim says Ahmed was “genuinely a very nice person” who was supportive of her education. She said he had been facing financial difficulty since paying an immigration consultant around $14,000 for a Hong Kong residency visa. That consultant turned out to be a fraudster, leaving Ahmed, a former teacher, fending for himself in the city for some years.
Local media had reported Ahmed to be delivering takeout food – but Salim says he was carrying food home for dinner that night.
Police say they are still investigating the cause of the fatal crash.