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Philip Barnes, wife Susan and daughters: dramatic escape

Children Cry in Fear: Tourists Escape Sinking

Friday, January 6, 2012
PHUKET: A group of Australians have told of making a frightening last-minute escape as their tourist speedboat sank beneath them.

''We had a window of 10 minutes,'' said Philip Barnes, whose daughters Alyssa, 9, and Megan, 7, were crying, but not panicking like the children who could not swim.

''If the diving vessel that rescued us hadn't been close and big enough to take us all, who knows what might have happened?

''The speedboat went down very quickly. It was ill-equipped and ill-prepared. There was no radio and no flares. Fortunately, there were enough lifejackets to go around.''

The rescue boat from Prestige Divers was carrying about 20 people but managing director Micha Hildner sacrificed their trip to rescue the 25 people on the speedboat, including seven children.

''They did the right thing and we appreciate it,'' said Mr Barnes, a risk executive at a Melbourne bank, safely on Phuket today.

The sinking took place about 10am yesterday. Within a few minutes, the speedboat went under as its passengers watched from the safety of the dive boat.

Craig Hummiford, also from Melbourne, said the speedboat was 45 minutes into the trip from Phuket's Boat Lagoon to Phi Phi when one engine and the bilge pump failed.

''From the time the last person jumped off until the speedboat went down was about three minutes,'' Mr Hummiford said.

The people on the speedboat were members of the Banyule Cricket Club who had come to Thailand for the wedding of a friend on December 30 before heading on to Phuket for a tropical island holiday.

''We are very relieved,'' said Mr Hummiford, whose dramatic series of photographs showed the speedboat slipping under within seconds.

It is believed the tour company, with its three regular speedboats already committed, subcontracted a fourth boat. Passengers could not recollect details of the speedboat today and Phuketwan's efforts to find an owner failed.

Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Chief of Phuket's Marine Office 5, said today that he was aware of the sinking but that it occurred in the waters of Phang Nga province, not Phuket waters. ''Not my area,'' he said.

Prestige Divers managed to transfer some of their passengers to another dive trip today but had to refund passengers who couldn't adjust their schedules, a spokesperson said today.

MD Micha Hildner was at sea again today.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Wooden hull speedboats deteriorate very fast as vibration open holes around nails.
Every years, several speedboats sunk that way in the Andaman Sea.
In my opinion, fast transport boats or speedboats should be only in fiberglass or aluminum as well compulsory diesel engines to avoid easy fire in case of short-circuit or boat accident as many speedboats carry up to 1000 liters of highly inflammable benzine.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on January 6, 2012 16:57


if somebody saves your life, maybe it is a moral obligation to compensate his financial loss for doing so?

Posted by phuket101 on January 6, 2012 17:07

Editor Comment:

If that is the case, there are round the world sailors who owe millions. i would have thought the shonky boat owner probably should pay up for putting people at risk.


As I work in tourism I would like to know the name of the company as often I get in discussions with my front desk staff about not using certain companies especially in the low season.

There are a few boats, not speed boats, with high standards doing trips to Phi Phi.

So did I miss the company name? Or is it owned by an unmentionable?

Posted by Nancy Botwin on January 6, 2012 17:20

Editor Comment:

The sub-contractor's name we don't have. Most tour companies, when they have to, will use an outsider's boat.


gee W-B - is there ANYTHING you're not an expert on. Your talents are sorely wasted here - how about going off to create world peace, food and water for everyone, 5555

Posted by Mister Ree on January 6, 2012 17:50


Got to love the constant attitude of chief of Marine 5.

Posted by S on January 6, 2012 17:53


@Mister Ree - is there ANYTHING you're not an expert on. Your talents are sorely wasted here -

I am sailing and working in boating since 40 years and have repair and builds wooden boats.
Thanks anyway to your advice.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on January 6, 2012 18:54


Maritime laws at sea are (not surprisingly) very ancient. A vessel is obliged to help save life - and is not entitled to any recompense. HOWEVER, they certainly do have a claim against the wreck. Google 'admiralty law' for further info. Regarding the boat. Boats made of marine-ply certainly are suitable for use. Quite simply, a boat made out of any material is useless if badly maintained. There are simply thousands of marine-ply with fibre-glass boats afloat and happily at sea as we speak. The comments of Marine Office 5 do not surprise me at all.

Posted by Mr Man on January 6, 2012 19:12


So no radio, no flares, no liferafts . . . so don't thai vessels need TAT Licences, or do the severe safety standards only apply to farang owned - Thai flagged and registered vessels? Answer that question honestly Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Chief of Phuket's Marine Office 5? I would love to hear the answer.

Posted by Robin on January 6, 2012 19:14


I don't see how its the sub-contractors who are at full fault. When you drive a car, you are responsible for it, no matter what condition it is in.
If something faulty is wrong with the car you are driving, YOU are at fault.

So I don't agree with this totally. Sure the owner is at fault but the renter is also at fault for not checking the boat to begin with. Which goes to show, are checks ever made? To which the probably answer is - NO.

But then again, didn't happen in my area, so its someone elses fault ;)

Posted by Tbs on January 6, 2012 19:33

Editor Comment:

I once went on a speedboat trip where the new boat broke down before leaving, so we boarded the old boat. The storm hit very hard. We discovered the lifejackets had all been left on the new boat. Terrifying. There is simply not enough care and responsibility in Phuket tourism, full stop.


@ Whistle-Blower

Wooden speedboats? In Thailand? I don't Think so.

Posted by CaptainJack on January 6, 2012 19:34


Try spotting the life-jackets on the Phuket-Ao Nang speedboat service that operates from Bang Rong pier.

You will occasionally spot one life-jacket, which is worn by me whenever I use that service. It's my own life-jacket and no I'm not a non-swimmer, but I've realised that this commercial ferry service doesn't seem to carry any life-jackets, (at least I've never been able to spot them or their storage location...)

Posted by Simon Luttrell on January 6, 2012 20:47


I just want to thank my team to rescue all the people on the sinking vessel!

Managing Director from Prestige Divers Hildner Micha
Happy New Year everyone ;-)

Posted by Hildner Micha on January 6, 2012 21:27

Editor Comment:

Well done.
(We were given three different versions of your spelling.)


@CaptainJack - Wooden speedboats? In Thailand? I don't Think so.

So, come anytime to Chalong pier and look all the speedboats along the beach, same same on Rawai Beach.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on January 6, 2012 21:46


So who was the tour company that carelessly sub-contracted to another company? urg. and as usual there will be no consequences for anyone as no one is responsible. Perhaps things would be different if Mr Issara has been on that boat ;)

Posted by Nancy Botwin on January 7, 2012 00:29

Editor Comment:

As we said, virtually every tour company (and dive company) on Phuket sub-contracts to hire vessels if the need arises. This is usually the trigger for all kinds of safety issues, small and serious. We'd like all tour companies and dive companies on Phuket to tighten up their concerns for the safety of their guests and Phuket's reputation. Marine 5 could also do more than just count people and lifejackets.


'Not my area' but the boat departed from Phuket and should thus be investigated.

Posted by Ian on January 7, 2012 06:51


Whistle-Blower - Get your facts straight before bellowing your hot air rants.

The speedboat that sank was a fiberglass speedboat.

The speedboat out of Boat Lagoon that split and almost sank on 26 December was also a fiberglass boat. A new boat at that.

The large dive boat that sank in 2009 was a metal hulled boat.

A properly built and maintained wood hulled boat is actually stronger pound for pound than a fiberglass boat.

Proper design and maintenance of any boat is crucial - wood, fiberglass or metal.

Even with a perfect design and meticulous care the ocean can claim any boat she wants regardless of the hull or type of engines.

But I am sure your rusting metal hulled oil belching diesel engine dive boat is perfect, as perfect as you seem to think you are.

Posted by Whistle Blocker on January 7, 2012 07:19


@Whistle Blocker
Regarding the Phuketwan pictures, it's look to be a locally buit speedboat with the hull in plywood as we have many in Chalong Bay and Rawai.
One of the largest factory is in Soi Parlai.
The article speaks about speedboats not about dive boats; so your comment is out of that article.
I confirm that regularly plywood-built speedboats sunk in Phuket or other tourism area on the Andaman Sea and get on fire as happen at Boat Lagoon last year.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on January 7, 2012 09:35


@ Nancy Botwin, what the hell has Mr Issara got to do with this story? I think you need to lay off the weed!

Posted by phuket madness on January 7, 2012 11:13


Most of the Thai made speedboats that litter Phuket shores have plywood panels attached to wooden hull and coated with gelcoat. It may appear as if it is fiberglass but it is not.

General consensus among operators is that a hull does not last more than 3 to 4 years in these conditions. The constant pounding of the waves takes its toll.

One has to wonder, what is it that Marine Office 5 does?

Posted by Steve C. on January 7, 2012 11:36


The passengers whose lives were potentially saved should compensate Prestige Divers. Bloody disgrace if they do not. Philip and others, get your money out.

Posted by AdamFoundSeveralEves on January 25, 2012 15:30


I was in Phuket n went on sea angle speed boat to phi phi island on 24.08.2012 it was a very rough ride. However we were not given the jackets until we requested for it. Like many said I think there is not enough safety measures for passengers in Phuket!! It's terrifying to hear this!! Thank god we did not go through the same ordeal!!!!! Sorry about the incident n may god be with all the Victims.

Posted by Sarala on August 29, 2012 08:24

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