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Writer recalls last moments of doomed diveboat



Writer recalls last moments of doomed diveboat | Thaiger

PHUKET: Gazette diving writer Chris Cruz has described the dramatic moments before the dive boat he was on capsized and sank during a heavy storm on Tuesday, leaving a Thai woman dead.

The 24-meter Bubble Blue, with 18 people on board, was several hours into the seven-hour journey from Chalong port to the Similan Islands when it was caught in bad weather.

Speaking from his bed in Wachira Phuket Hospital yesterday, Mr Cruz said: “The storm was really very, very bad, so we had to slow down. In the morning, at 8 am, even as early as 6 am, the waves were very, very strong.

“We got caught in the middle of the storm. The waves kept smashing into the boat and water was coming inside, and slowly, slowly, we started sinking.”

Having handed out buoyancy aids to the others, Mr Cruz said he realised that water was being forced through an air vent near the engine room, and it was this which was causing the boat to list to port.

The captain, he said, told everyone to move to the starboard side of the boat – as there would be less chance of them being hit by heavy items falling to the lower side of the boat.

But then, he said, “Suddenly we were in the water. Luckily it happened in the daytime. If it had happened at night, it would have been a disaster.”

Sukonthapan Weerawan, 36, from Bangkok, drowned.

Mr Cruz said, “We did everything we could to save her, but we couldn’t. We put her in the dinghy – it had capsized but we managed to get it the right way up – and we performed CPR [cardio-pulmonary resuscitation] on her, gave her mouth-to-mouth, but she didn’t make it.”

He continued, “There was lots of debris floating in the water when the boat sank. We shared food and tried to hydrate ourselves. I was telling my friends to eat as much as they could because we didn’t know how long we would be in the water. Everyone helped each other.

“Everyone was very, very calm, although I think people were a little bit scared. But considering there were 18 of us and only one person died it shows that we were doing the right things.”

After two hours in the rough sea, the group was spotted and picked up by a Thai fishing boat.

According to Mr Cruz, Bubble Blue sank in 80 meters of water. He said: “We were so lucky the boat picked us up, otherwise we could have been in the water 18 or 20 hours. I [was worried that] boats wouldn’t come there because of the storm.”

The fishing boat was just 30 minutes from Phuket by the time the rescue helicopter and marine police boat reached it. Mr Cruz – whose shoulder was dislocated during the sinking – was taken to Wachira Phuket Hospital.

The boat had been chartered from Bubble Blue Scuba company in Phang Nga by the national park authorities to check on the state of reefs in the Similans and to prepare for the installation of a protective pontoon.

Mr Cruz, who is from the Philippines, had volunteered for the survey trip because he is a friend of the owners of Bubble Blue Scuba.

The boat had left Chalong at 10 pm on Monday. On board were 11 researchers and divers, and seven crew. Said Mr Cruz: “When we left, the clouds were okay [and] the stars were out, so we didn’t think there was going to be a storm.”


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