Yeung said it was too early to know what caused the accident but that weather didn’t seem to be a factor on the relatively clear and calm night.
He said the lights of the skyline and other ships might have obscured the navigation lights on one or both of the ships that crashed, but that the biggest factors appeared to be ‘‘careless mistakes’’ by both crews.
Three crew members from the Lamma IV and four from the Sea Smooth were arrested; all have been released on bail except the hospitalized Sea Smooth captain.
Police Commissioner Tsang Wai-hung said both crews are suspected of having not ‘‘exercised the care required of them by law,’’ but he did not elaborate.
Yeung said he suspects the ferry captain may not have been paying enough attention. ‘‘If people run on the same route every day, several times a day, they become overconfident. They become very slack,’’ he said.
At the same time, he said the Lamma IV’s captain might have been moving too fast to secure a good position for the fireworks show.
Hong Kong Electric spokeswoman Elaine Wong declined to release any information about the Lamma IV’s captain.
A woman who escaped the Lamma IV with her husband and their two children told the South China Morning Post they barely had time to get into life vests before water rushed into the boat.
Renee, whose surname was not given, said her husband, Fong Hang-keung, found an exit and pulled her, their 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter out into the sea. The four were rescued in about 10 minutes.
Ng, the ferry official, said the Sea Smooth had no problems when it passed a government-required inspection last month. Echoing promises from the power company Tuesday, he said the ferry company ‘‘will absolutely chase the reasons behind the incident.’’
Ng bristled at the claim, made by the power company that the ferry left the scene immediately.
‘‘I think, at this stage, to say that we left without a backward glance, there is a little problem with that,’’ Ng said. But he added that because he still hadn’t spoken with the ferry captain, he did not know exactly how the crew responded.
Associated Press writer Alexa Olesen in Beijing contributed to this report.
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