PHUKET: The crash of two speedboats today off Pattaya with tourists severely injured should trigger vital safety reforms that Thailand's boating industry needs.
The collison comes just a few days after the Royal Thai Navy had to rescue more than 400 tourists - most of them speedboat passengers - because the ''captains'' of the vessels ignored a forecast of severe storms.
An investigating police officer in Pattaya confirm today that the ''captains'' of the speedboats that crashed initially fled the scene.
''We have been very busy rescuing the wounded,'' he said. One man from Korea had a leg ripped off on impact and the legs of a second man were almost severed.
Later the Superintendent of Pattaya Police Station, Colonel Suwan Cheawnswintawat, told Phuketwan that six people - including a Thai guide - had serious leg injuries.
He named the two drivers and the boats as Rungaroon Hormlamdon, 27, who crashed the vessel Seadream, carrying 23 Koreans and a Thai, with the empty Sor Kemtong, being driven by Amnard Jalerntap, 42.
Khun Amnard has since appeared at the police station, the superintendent said. ''Khun Amnard said the other speedboat crashed into his at speed,'' the colonel added.
The second driver, Khun Rungaroon, had telephoned police and was likely to surrender. His home has been staked out by police, the colonel said.
Fourteen injured tourists were being treated in Pattaya Memorial Hospital and another five in Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, the investigating officer said an hour earlier.
All of the passengers were wearing lifejackets. The boat laden with tourists was heading for Lan island, off Pattaya, on a snorkelling day-trip.
Complaints come frequently from tourists on Phuket and in Pattaya about the skills and the lack of attention to safety among some speedboat ''captains.''
In one case on Phuket last year, a speedboat driver slung a banana boat carrying Chinese tourists into the side of a second speedboat anchored at a beach, killing a Chinese woman.
The driver was fined and briefly suspended.
On Monday on Phuket and in the holiday province of Phang Nga to the north, speedboat ''captains'' put to sea with large numbers of passengers on paid-for trips despite warnings that small boats should stay in port.
One dive-boat sank in the storm, with passengers and crew rescued. More than 10 speedboats and diveboats were forced to shelter off a nearby island where stranded passengers remained until the Navy ship Pattani arrived to rescue them hours later.