KRABI: The Royal Thai Navy today returned to Phuket with the body of American tourist Jeffrey S. Gall, 48, who disappeared March 25 while diving in a cave off Koh Ha Yai. Pol Lt Col Prasopchai Bunluesil, Deputy Superintendent of Phuket Marine Police, told the Gazette today that Mr Gall was on vacation with his wife, staying on Phi Phi Don island. He explained that Mr Gall – an experienced diver who had logged more than 250 dives – went on a trip with seven other divers and a divemaster to Koh Ha Yai, about 60 kilometers from Phuket, while his wife stayed on Phi Phi. “The divemaster told the divers to stay out of the cave because it was dangerous,” Col Prasopchai said. “However, Mr Gall and two other divers apparently ignored the warning and went to explore the cave,” he said, adding that the entrance to the cave was 15 meters below the surface and only one meter wide. Lt Col Prasopchai explained that Mr Gall ventured deeper into the cave than the other two divers, who returned to the boat, where they discovered that no one had seen Mr Gall since the three parted from the rest of the divers. “The divemaster radioed to the marine police, explaining that a diver had entered the cave and had not yet returned. “Marine police officers tried to marshal a rescue party, but didn’t have the right equipment on hand for a cave rescue at such a depth,” he explained. Marine police divers managed to enter the cave early the next morning, but in the darkness were unable to locate Mr Gall. More searches over the following two days were also unsuccessful. Commodore Likit Charoensaph, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet, said, “On April 3 we received a joint request from the Marine Police and the US Embassy to recover Mr Gall’s body. “We started our search on April 6 because we needed to organize the dive team and to make sure that we had the right equipment for divers to explore the cave. “We found Mr Gall at 12:25 pm. The oxygen tank on his back was empty,” he said. Mr Gall’s body was taken to Wachira Phuket Hospital where it will remain until it is sent back to the US. Commodore Likit said, “I would like to warn divers to be careful at sites they are not familiar with. The underwater cave at Koh Ha Yai is not suitable for diving because it’s very dark and the entrance is very narrow and twisting.” He also urged people, in case of an emergency at sea, to call the Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet at 076-391598 or 076-391596.
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