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Diving in the Similans off the Andaman coast, where beauty abounds

One Diver Dead, Two in Phuket Decompression Chamber: Day Out at Similans Goes Wrong

Saturday, March 14, 2015
PHUKET: One diver is dead and two have recovered in a decompression chamber on Phuket after a volunteers' day out that went catastrophically wrong in the Similan islands today.

A Royal Thai Navy helicopter carried the two sick divers and the body of the third diver back to Phuket.

First reports said the two divers confined in the decompression chamber at Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City were not in good shape.

The dead diver was named as Sudhat Sokpok, 45. The divers who required decompression were Suwat Julapong, a Professor at Prince of Songkhla University, and Royal Thai Navy Petty Officer First Class Patopong Japimai.

The two sick divers, initially bleeding from the mouth, were in the chamber in Phuket City for six hours and have now come out, a spokesperson for the hospital said tonight.

''We believe they will make a full recovery,'' she said.

It's reported that problems arose today when divers sought to shift a mooring buoy where the anchor had drifted to a depth of 42 metres - well beyond the limit of most amateur divers.

Scores of Thai and foreign divers are said to have joined a project that aimed to fix or replace buoys around the Similans, one of the favorite destinations for divers visiting Phuket and neighboring Phang Nga province.

The tragedy came as one group of volunteers tried to adjust buoys around Koh See (Island Four).

The man who died was a veteran Thai diver who has totted up between 500-600 dives. He was a businessman from Songkhla province.

One professional diver who spoke to Phuketwan tonight said that volunteers should not be used to adjust moorings at such depths.

''It appears to be a money-saving exercise on the part of the national park officials,'' he said. ''Professional divers should be employed to fix the moorings over a long period of time.

''Instead it has become a community project and clearly, people are being asked to dive beyond their capacity.''

Police from Phang Nga are investigating the death.

The Similans are well-known to thousands of snorkelling day trippers and liveaboard divers who usually stay on Phuket or in Khao Lak and reach the islands via Tablamu pier in Phang Nga.

Comments

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Tragic.
Doubt there will be any remorse or admission of criminal negligence on the part of those really responsible for buoy maintenance. Pretty sad that it was left to well meaning volunteers putting their lives at risk for the common tourist good.
Nah??? much better for military government to concentrate on umbrellas and beach chairs of those 'so annoying' tourists.

Posted by david on March 15, 2015 09:19

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42 metres that's about absolute max on scuba and short bottom time with water deco time on a rope looks like this operation was way outside the recommended dive tables,with a horrible outcome, its a saving grace Phuket has a recompression chamber how could so many ignore recommended dive tables for time and depth begs the question.

Posted by slickmelb on March 15, 2015 10:08

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At higher recreation diving level. experienced recreation divers go to dept of maximum 40 meters. ( This is for 'sight seeing', NOT for working!)
Recreation divers should be wiser. It is all deep waters around the similan islands.
A money saving exercise for the park officials? Meaning, park officials 'earn' more pocket money by not hiring professional divers. Right?
A good Government(NCPO) investigation should be carried out. This whole affair, in which park authorities were involved, turned out to be a disaster.

Posted by Kurt on March 15, 2015 10:27

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"42 metres that's about absolute max on scuba and short bottom time"
And don't forget those tables are made for recreational diving, working under water like was happening here requires completely different tables and a completely different setup.

An operation like this should really not be done by recreational divers on normal open circuit scuba but by professionals. This is one of the projects that should be taken care of by the Similans national park out of the millions and millions they are receiving.

Posted by stevenl on March 15, 2015 11:35

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This is really sad as this was a needless accident. There are 100s of divers here that are trained to this depth who will use Nitrox and many tech divers too. To risk peoples live to save a bit of money is crazy. Many instructors here that are trained will happily help for free as long as they can have a couple of days diving in the Similans for free. This was madness.

Posted by Anonymous on March 15, 2015 17:13


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