TECHNICAL divers found four bodies inside the wreck of the MV Dive Asia 1 today. Attempts will be made tomorrow to bring them to the surface.
JURGEN Schenker was at work today in the Dive Asia offices in Kata, close to Karon and not far from Dino Park.
One of the people with the most comprehensive view of the sinking of the MV Dive Asia 1, Jurgen had this to say to Phuketwan today:
''The storm picked up very quickly with immense force and capsized the boat. According to the people who survived, the boat sank within a minute or two. People just managed to get out. It was really fast.
''One of the guys said he felt the boat was pushed to the right side by the wave then he said at the next moment another wave came, and turned the boat over.
''The life rafts deployed so 23 people managed to get into the life rafts and at the time of the mishap there were something like one and a half to two metre waves and shortly after that they had very heavy rain and winds and it was completely black.
''Nothing to see . . . there are of course in the life rafts some flares, and they put the flares up but nobody recognised it as an emergency.
''They saw in the distance some boats' lights and perhaps they didn't see it or didn't think it was an emergency, that's the speculation.
''The two life rafts can each carry up to 20 persons. They tied the two life rafts together so they would not get separated. They drifted from somewhere west of Patong almost to Racha Noi [well south of Phuket].
''That's around 50-plus kilometres. They have been picked up by a fishing boat at around noon then we got contact by telephone around one or 1.30 and we heard from one of our divemasters there there were 23 people on the life rafts.
''That left seven unaccounted for. Then the marine police picked up the survivors and brought them to the deep sea port. They arrived around four, 4.30.
''A lot of people were present to offer relief in case they needed help. There were some minor injuries, not worth mentioning.
''A few people got quite sunburned and they were treated with some special moisturising cream. They were all in remarkably good condition but you could see in their faces that they were pleased to escape but also terrified by the experience.
''We actually have been doing that trip for many years and the captain usually makes the trip home as comfortable as possible and to sail as slow as possible.
''We have two captains on the boat so one can sleep while the other steers. So the boat arrives in the morning . . . we were on the pier a little bit before 8am and at first we were a bit confused.
''The captain from the boat called Dive Master told us he had been on the radio with our captain until around nine, 9.30pm. One of our staff members here in the office was in contact with the cook at around 10pm.
''Since then, no contact. We informed the Thai Navy and the marine police so they could start searching. We gave them all the information.
''It [the boat] normally arrived between 2am and 4am.
''We did a few sea trials [with the MV Dive Asia 1] when the sea was quite choppy last year in September and also in the beginning of the season, late October early November. There are usually some waves.
''We were all very happy with the performance of the boat.
''We never had any concerns. It was launched on October 31 last year. The boat is equipped for 20 guests, four or five divemasters, and the crew itself is eight.
''So it's 32 or 33 if the boat is full. There were 11 staff members on the boat, including dive crew.
''We have cancelled every activity and we will see how it goes. We focus to take core of this situation. We hope to find some survivors.
''Maybe in a week or so then we will discuss how we continue. This is as well as being a tragedy for the people devastating for the business.
''Dive Asia has been operating here for 20 years. It was founded in Phuket.
''At moments like this, you just keep going. You do what you have to do. I don't know how many telephone calls and emails I have answered.
''I have tried to contact relatives and I have been in contact with various embassies, plenty of interviews on the phone and other things.
''For me, I think the shock will come a little bit later. Right now, we do what we have to do.
''The tsunami was similar but in the tsunami we were very lucky. We had no loss of customers or staff or equipment but of course, we were contacted by hundreds of people. asking about relatives and about our staff.
''This is a different kind of disaster.
''I love the island and I've been here since 1995.
''My staff has focused very hard on searching and helping. For me it's a privilege to have worked together with these people right now.
''I think this is the fortunate thing. That people grow together and become a unit. We are out with a few boats now in the area we believe the boat was struck by the storm and sunk.
''Some technical divers are standing by to go and check if we find some debris or oil on the surface but it's too early to say right now.
''The boat is not located. We are getting the special divers ready. These divers can go with the right equipment down to 100-plus metres.
''The first objective will be to locate the boat and look inside. We have contacted our insurance people and they have taken care of it right now.
''At this moment it's really not important what happens to us.
''Right now it's important what happens with the people who are still missing and the survivors. That's all that we care about right now.''
Dive boat MV Dive Asia 1 with 19 tourists and 11 crew aboard leaves Chalong pier for a five-night liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands.
4.30pm A boat carrying three men capsizes in a storm off Phuket's south shore. Two men, Jidtapon Taveeworaparsert and Sittichai Tanadpirom, swim to safety on Koh Bon and alert the authorities that Atakorn Jaiboon is missing.
10pm The MV Dive Asia 1 departs from the Similans in calm seas to return to Phuket.
11pm A savage squall strikes and passengers on board are thrown into the water without warning. The boat capsizes and sinks within minutes. Twenty-three people scramble into inflatable life rafts and drift with the dinghies tied together through the night.
8am Dive Asia staff arrive to Chalong pier to meet the boat that was due back to shore between 2am and 4am and are unable to find it. They alert Royal Thai Navy that the boat is missing.
Noon Survivors are plucked from the water by a fishing boat, all in good condition.
2pm A Marine Police boat intercepts the fishing boat and survivors are taken aboard. Calls between rescue personnel and Dive Asia confirm that seven people, six tourists and a Thai staffer, are missing.
4.05pm The Marine Police boat arrives back to Phuket's Deep Sea Port and the 23 survivors are debriefed and taken for treatment of sunburns and minor injuries.
4.35pm A Navy helicopter spots a body floating on the surface of the water. Officers in the helicopter give the coordinates to Marine Police, but only a life jacket is found.
6.30 pm The sunken boat is located by sonar by Navy boat "Pahruhat" off Phuket, at a depth of 71 metres.
6am Search vessels resume the hunt for more possible survivors.
7am A body is seen on the water from the Navy helicopter and recovered by Marine Police about four kilometres away from the previous sighting.
1pm The recovery boat arrives back to the Deep Sea Port of Phuket and the body is transferred to Vachira Hospital, where it is identified as Austrian tourist Gabrielle Jetzinger.
The body of Atakorn Jaiboon, who was aboard the small boat off Rawai with two others, is found by rescue officials.
Noon Four specially-trained technical divers descend to the sunken boat in search of the missing.
4.10 pm Divers report that four bodies are found inside the wreck of the MV Dive Asia 1 on the floor of the ocean off Phuket. Positional records lead police to conclude that the bodies are those of two Austrians and two Swiss.
Rescue officials call off the surface-level search for survivors by boat and helicopter.
A Thai staffer remain missing.
11.05am Technical divers begin their descent to the sunken boat to recover four bodies and to search for the two still missing.
12.25pm Five bodies are recovered and taken back to Phuket for identification.
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