Austrian’s extradition sought after jet-ski death

KAMALA: Kathu Police are to seek the extradition of an Austrian in connection with the death of a Thai man, allegedly killed by a jet-ski while spearfishing near Laem Hin on January 25.

Kathu Police Superintendent Pol Col Teeraphol Thipjaroen today told the Gazette that the Austrian, a 29-year-old tourist, was questioned after the incident but was released because of lack of evidence. The Austrian had since left the country.

But Col Theeraphol said police now have a witness who saw the Austrian in the water near the victim. The Austrian was then seen to get back on the jet-ski and leave the area.

Kathu Police will now forward the case to the Foreign Affairs Division of the Royal Thai Police, he said.

Kathu Police Deputy Superintendent Pol Lt Col Chaowalit Niemwadee earlier identified the victim as Nikhon Nachaiya, 28, from Cherng Talay.

K. Nikhon, who was wearing a diving mask, was found by lifeguards, floating unconscious in the water off Laem Singh, Kamala. He was rushed to Patong Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, Col Chaowalit said.

A nurse at Patong Hospital told the Gazette that a report on the examination of K. Nikhon’s body listed the cause of death as “drowning”.

Col Chaowalit told the Gazette that when police questioned the Austrian soon after the accident, he admitted to having rented a jet-ski, but denied hitting anyone.

The man who rented the jet-ski to him backed up the Austrian’s story, saying that the vessel was undamaged and had been returned before the accident occurred.

About 50 people attended funeral services for K. Nikhon on Monday. Among them was Pamela Wetzell, a Director of Development Management Group, who employed K. Nikhon as a messenger and driver.

“He was a great guy – always smiling. Very sweet,” she told the Gazette.

She said that K. Nikhon and his wife also worked as live-in help for a man living in the hills between Kamala and Surin. The couple had a three-year-old son and K. Nikhon’s wife is now pregnant with the couple’s second child, she added.

The victim’s hobby was spearfishing and he was out doing this to get food for his employer’s dinner at the time of the accident, Mrs Wetzell said.

“I hope this will galvanize local authorities to finally take action against jet-skis,” she added.

Rented jet-skis have been involved in numerous accidents in recent years, some of them fatal, but this is thought to be the first in which a swimmer was killed by one.

Strictly speaking, jet-skis may be operated in Thai waters only by people holding a valid Thai sea captain’s license, but this regulation has never been enforced in Phuket.

Although the machines are a common cause of complaint among tourists, officials have consistently failed to regulate the Phuket jet-ski rental industry.

Phuket News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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