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Tourists offer high praise for rescue efforts after storm sinks dive boat north of Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Tourists offer high praise for rescue efforts after storm sinks dive boat north of Phuket | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Tourists have heaped high praise on all those involved in the rescue of 30 people from a sinking dive boat and the safe recovery of 425 others after a severe storm left a flotilla of tour boats returning from the Similan Islands stranded at Koh Ta Chai, north of Phuket.

The 24-meter dive boat Little Princess, with 30 people on board, sank within minutes of being struck by a succession of large waves in a freak storm in the Similan National Park yesterday (story here).

The boat sank about seven kilometers off Koh Ta Chai, off the Phang Nga coast.

All passengers and crew were immediately and safely evacuated from the boat after the captain and tour leader raised the alarm, Stefan Kaesweber of Khao Lak Scuba Adventures told the Phuket Gazette.

The only injuries reported were two Thai staff members, who suffered superficial injuries, and were the last to leave the boat after ensuring that it was clear of all passengers and crew.

“In the morning, we had two dives in Koh Bon. The conditions were normal, not really fantastic weather, but not bad weather. We made two dives there because there is always one part of the island that is sheltered, where the sea is calm. The dives were great, we even saw manta rays,” explained Vivi Bernarbi who was on board the Little Princess moments before the boat sank.

As the boat headed toward Koh Ta Chai, another boat radioed that a big storm was on the rise.

“We could see the sea conditions worsening and we were taking on board some water. We tried to go back to Koh Bon, but it was even worse,” Ms Bernarbi said.

Realizing they were caught in the storm, the captain sought shelter on the leeward side of Koh Ta Chai, she added. Within minutes the waves rose from one meter to four and five meters.

As the boat turned around to head back toward Koh Ta Chai it was struck by three large waves, causing the boat to take on water and dip port side. The captain quickly raised the alarm and passengers grabbed life jackets and buoyancy control devices – and began to jump ship.

“We were really lucky that God was with us. It was so unexpected because a speedboat can easily capsize, but a boat as big and strong as the Little Princess – it was really unbelievable. I’ve been at sea many times and I would have never, ever thought we could sink, but it happened,” Ms Bernarbi said.

“Once in the water, we all stayed together and tried to give everyone encouragement… The experience was like the [movie] Titanic… I could see the boat, maybe the last three meters going down, it went so fast… it went so, so fast,” she added.

Fishing vessels in the area quickly rescued everyone from the water and from a deployed emergency raft, bringing them to one of the dive boat’s sister vessels.

“I would like to thank the fishing crew. I want to really thank them. We could see that some of them could not even swim, but they jumped into the water to try to help us,” Ms Bernarbi told the Gazette.

“The trip leader of our sister ship, all the staff and all of the guests welcomed us. And they gave us clothes, food, drink and everything we needed. And we had a kind of party because we were so happy we all made it,” she added.

In response to the SOS calls from the Little Princess before she went down, the Royal Thai Navy dispatched the HTMS Pattani, which brought everyone originally on board the sunken boat, as well as 425 others stranded on Koh Ta Chai, back to the mainland. Many of the tourists needing rescue from the island had arrived by speedboat.

“I would also like to thank the Royal Thai Navy because they were so welcoming and provided us with food and cigarettes; they even tried to cheer us up with some beer,” she added.

The Royal Thai Navy was greeted at the port by Khao Lak Scuba Adventures’s support team, which had flip-flops and towels ready in addition to minibuses that quickly transported their guests and staff to a four-star resort in Khao Lak.

The support team, complete with doctors*, provided assistance to everyone rescued, Mr Kaesweber said.

Psychologists were part of the team to deal with any psychological effects caused by the incident, and the variety of nationalities on the team ensured that those involved could receive support in their native tongue, Mr Kaesweber explained.

“I really have to say the organization of Thailand Khao Lak Scuba Adventure, the navy, the fisherman, everything was so amazing,” chimed in Ms Bernarbi. “I’m Italian, and I am really very impressed. I don’t know if any European country would have been so well organized.”

Guests, who were refunded for the trip, are now being assisted in securing new passports from their embassies in Bangkok, Mr Kaesweber said.

“The owner and manager are extremely grateful to the boat crew together with all the guests who did a very professional job to evacuate the boat with no loss of life,” Mr Kaesweber said.

The Little Princess now rests at a depth of about 70 meters.

“I have no idea how much the boat is worth, but it is quite expensive because it was a proper boat fully maintained throughout the season. She was made of chrome and teak wood – there was even an ice-cube maker on board,” he added.

Attempts to locate and salvage parts of the ship will be carried out next week by a professional technical diving team, Mr Kaesweber said.

* The story originally reported that psychologists were also available for those in need. It has since been clarified that people were available to provide mental and emotional support, but none were trained psychologists.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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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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Crime

Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft

Greeley Pulitzer

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Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Patong Police

Patong Police have yet to develop any tangible leads tracking down a foreigner who made off with US$30,000 in cash from a currency exchange booth in Kalim, north of Patong in Phuket, last Tuesday.

The man is about 168 centimetres tall with grey hair and around 60 years old, Patong police told The Phuket News.

“We have no clue what nationality he is.”

He was last seen at the currency exchange booth wearing a purple polo shirt, blue jeans and black cap. Police have checked hotels in the area, police stations across the island and Phuket Immigration, but have yet to join the dots and come up with firm leads.

“Investigators have checked CCTV in the area and collected what evidence we have but we still do not know the man’s name or where he was staying.”

The man had visited the booth several times before Tuesday, when he disappeared with the $30,000 in US banknotes, according to police.

“It was always small amounts”, he added, noting that the amounts didn’t warrant staff at the exchange booth to check the man’s passport before making the exchange.

The man arrived at the booth again at about 1pm on Tuesday, saying that he had 900,000 baht cash to exchange.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room

The Thaiger

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Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Hot News

The security guard of a hotel in Nai Yang, northern Phuket, 52 year old Yingyot Butsabong, from Maha Sarakham province, was found dead yesterday (October 16) in his room. Police remain mystified how the man came to grief.

A woman named Supattra received a call from the hotel he worked at and was informed that he didn’t show up at work yesterday, so she went to his apartment to check on him.

She saw that his room was locked from the inside, so used the key she had in her possession to open the room and found Yingyot laying on the floor, face down. She thought he was just sleeping so she tried to wake him up but once she flipped him, she found that he already passed away.

She immediately called Saku police, and once on the scene, police found that there was some blood on the floor. The man had a 2 centimetre wound on his left eyebrow which was deep into his skull. There was also a wound on his chin about 1 centimetre long and about a centimetre deep. His left eye had a bruise which looked like he was attacked by a hard object.

Police report that he had been dead for around four hours in the room.

The room was not ransacked and there was no sign of fighting or theft. His body has been sent to Thalang Hospital for a detailed autopsy and to look into the cause of death.

SOURCE: Phuket Hot News

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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