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Missing in action

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Missing in action | Thaiger

PATONG: A sailor from the visiting Australian frigate HMAS Newcastle, feared to have drowned early yesterday in the surf off Patong, apparently had a miracle escape – he resurfaced later in the day, 15 kilometers inland, at a soccer match at Surakul Stadium. A full-scale search for the sailor, named by police as “James”, was sparked after his companion for the evening, 25-year-old Nok-iang Namsiwad, called police in the wee hours to say that, against her advice, “James” had decided to take a dip in the sea not far from the end of Soi Bangla. He had not returned, the worried bar girl reported. Pol Lt Col Narong Naetbud, Inspector of Phuket Marine Police, told the Gazette that a rescue vessel with five frogmen was immediately launched to search for the missing sailor. They found no sign of him. Col Narong said that “James” had been drinking earlier in Patong with his shipmates. “As the evening went on, he met Nok-iang,” Col Narong said. “They came to an agreement whereby she would step out with him in return for a payment of about 2,000 baht.” The two drank a beer together, he said, then went for a walk on the beach. They sat for a while on the sand, then “James” announced that he was going for a swim. When he failed to return after 20 minutes, Nok-iang raised the alarm. The Australian Navy was informed and the search was launched. After about 90 minutes, the search was called off for the night, with plans being made to look in daylight for the inevitable corpse. Pol Capt Punya Chaichana of the Phuket Marine Police explained, “Before the second search in the afternoon, Col Narong received a call from the Australian Navy that “James” was alive and well, and was currently at a friendly soccer match between the Australian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet at Surakul Stadium.” Police officers accompanied Nok-iang to the stadium, where she identified her missing paramour. Capt David Thomas, skipper of the Newcastle, told the Gazette, “By a process of elimination we worked out who the sailor was. We’d seen him ashore and we were convinced that he was okay. Obviously, he had come ashore a few yards up the beach.” “I’d like to say that the girl did a really sterling job; and the Thai organization that went into assisting the search was absolutely outstanding.” Declining to name the sailor, Capt Thomas said he doubted a police theory that “James” went for a swim as a graceful way of breaching his agreement with Nok-Iang. “I don’t believe that’s the case,” he said. “Why he went into the water, I have no idea, and I guess, at the end of the day, I don’t really want to know.”

 

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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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