Phuket

Tourist dies scuba diving in Phi Phi national park

PHUKET: A tour company, a boat operator and a British dive professional are all in hot water after a tourist died in their care while scuba diving in Phi Phi national marine park yesterday.

Chinese national Minghua Jiang, 62, was recovered unconscious at about noon while scuba diving for the first time near Koh Poda (Koh Yawasam), which is part of Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.

Mr Jiang, who was on a scuba diving tour with Ao Nang-based Scuba Addicts, was one of two divers accompanied by British dive instructor Geoff Branigan, explained Lt Col Anurak Parinyasathiragul of the Krabi Marine Police.

“Mr Branigan left Mr Jiang underwater alone when he accompanied another diver to the surface, who was suffering ear pain due to issues with equalizing at depth,” said Col Anurak.

“When Mr Branigan went back underwater, Mr Jiang was not where he had left him. After a search, Mr Jiang was found unconscious.”

Mr Jiang was given emergency first aid and taken to Krabi Hospital. He was later pronounced dead, reported Col Anurak.

Doctors have yet to determine the cause of death, confirmed police.

Investigations revealed that the dive boat’s registration had expired on November 28 last year.

The captain, Matsin Borna, was charged with operating a longtail boat with an expired registration and operating a dive boat without permission, as well as taking people to dive in a no-diving zone.

Diving in the Phi Phi archipelago was limited to 18 dive sites, following a speedboat maiming of two Russian divers (story here).

Russian nationals named by police as Sergei Dmitriev, 30, and Dmitry Kurynov, 48, were diving near Maya Bay in Phi Phi when they were hit by the speedboat, causing one diver to lose his leg and the other to suffer serious injuries. The speedboat driver was charged with reckless driving causing serious injury (story here).

“We also discovered that Mr Branigan did not have a work permit, so he was charged with working illegally in Thailand. The company he was working for was charged for illegally employing a foreigner,” Col Anurak said.

The tour company and employees could also face charges of recklessness causing death, depending on the outcome of inspections of the dive equipment used and the testimonies of other witnesses, said Col Anurak.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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