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A no-red-flag day at Patong beach earlier this week

Patong Tragedy Pair Put Their Shirts on Red Flag: Lifeguard

Sunday, June 3, 2012
PHUKET: Two young visitors to Phuket placed their shirts to hang on a red warning flag before they vanished into the surf yesterday, Patong's chief lifeguard, Sakon Chiatong, has told Phuketwan.

He said the surf was so rough about 2.40pm off Loma Park that the two men vanished within seconds.

Khun Sakon pulled out one of the youngsters but the other disappeared. Khun Sakon plunged to their rescue so quickly he forgot that he had a mobile telephone in a pocket.

The hunt for the body of the young man will resume today.

''It was very bad surf,'' Khun Sakon said. ''There were seven in the group.

''I am told the young man's mother works in Patong, and that he came from Bangkok to visit her.

''The man I pulled out was aged 22. His friend was aged 17 or 18.''

Along the beach a bit further, Khun Sakon said, waves tipped over a jet-ski, meaning the hirer will probably have to pay to recondition the engine.

''The beach slopes away steeply so an inexperienced swimmer will quickly be out of their depth when it is this rough,'' he said.

Thunderstorms and strong surf conditions are predicted through until Thursday.

Other drownings or deaths associated with a collapse in the water have been recorded since May 18 at Karon, Freedom Beach and Nai Harn.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Contenders for this year's Darwin Awards

Posted by interested observer on June 3, 2012 11:25

Editor Comment:

It would be more appropriate to grieve for the needless loss of one young life and what was apparently almost the loss of two young lives. Perhaps you never were young and capable of thoughtless actions. Most of us have better memories.


I'll never forget the Dirty Harry line,.." a man's gotta know his limitations ". The surf has been big for some time now and is supposed to stay that way for a while. The onshore howling winds and overcast skies make it even harder to see people when they go in the water. I dont know what the answer to this one is... its like people riding with no helmets. The safest place on Patong beach is the very south end, and Kata, the very north ... Karon, forget it. I don't know why more people don't drown at Surin, that place is really treacherous. RIP

Posted by carvets on June 3, 2012 12:04


With so many flags and buntings already designating businesses and boundaries of beach-franchises, a red flag is simply lost amongst the others. Red may not necessarily mark a danger area in an inlander's eyes, and this is evidenced by the fact that in this instance the flags were used as "coat-hangers'.
Maybe a "scull and crossbones" stencil on the red flags might draw more attention to the danger(?).

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 3, 2012 12:04

Editor Comment:

This case illustrates the complexity of the issue. Not everyone is born knowing intuitively that red flags mean 'don't swim.' Clearly, teaching students about the flags system on Phuket is not a high priority in Bangkok. Only with a multi-layered system of warnings (on incoming flights, in person at check-ins, with signs and red flags and whistle-blowing) will lives be saved.


Surely any human with half a brain and including the most uneducated must see that the ocean is more than dangerous at these times. Im amazed to see tourists and or locals go anywhere near the the ocean. I think the life guards should go home, why should they endanger themselves for the stupidy of others...

Posted by Open your eyes... on June 3, 2012 13:30


Why don't the local Police and fire departments get more involved with this public safety Issue??
I'm sure a fire truck or a police car with lights flashing at the entrance to these beaches would deter people from swimming in rough seas...
Public safety means nothing in Phuket.

Posted by Jimmy Rawai on June 3, 2012 13:33


There are some people Khun Sakon that cannot be saved. I am sure you did your best but stupidity always seems to win in the end.
Your action in saving one of these young men is commendable.

Posted by Arthur on June 3, 2012 14:19


Only a fool does not fear the Sea.

Posted by Bjarne on June 3, 2012 15:11


Went to Patong beach today, 3/6/2012, red flags are out and well positioned,all along the beach, however, and this I just can't work out, so are the red/yellow flags, indicating, all along the beach it is safe to swim between the flags, in this case, unbelievable stupidity.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 3, 2012 18:20

Editor Comment:

You should have asked a lifeguard, Laurie. They would have told you that it's simply an attempt to save lives. The red flags are to try to prevent people from going in at places where there are no lifeguards. The yellow-and-red flags define lifeguard-protected areas. Unlike Australia, residents and most visitors are not taught when knee-high about beach safety. This is an attempt to make Phuket's long beaches safer, with limited resources and limited support. You may find this ''unbelievable stupidity.'' Most people, giving it a moment's thought, would call it what it is: the best plan available until warnings and training are universal.


I agree with ed on both counts, please show some sensitivity for the family of a young man who made a foolish mistake and paid the highest price. Secondly, even in Australia where the surf life saving culture has been around for decades, people still drown but more tourists drown than anyone else. If you are not familiar with surf, unfortunately you often don't show it enough respect.

Posted by pete on June 3, 2012 18:48


@Ed and pete, you bot misunderstood what is in my comment, you BOTH should go and look at the flags on Patong beach, the whole beach is lined with red and yellow flags (safe to swim) but there are red flags between should be either unsafe or safe, you CAN NOT have them can it be safe to swim between thered and yellow flags when there is a red flag betweem them...I hope IO have made myself clear, as for the lifeguard, yes I did see ONE...relaxing on his jetski ASLEEP..and I repeat only one, making NO attempt at warning any would be done in AUSTRAIA pete..also pete, enlighten me on how I show ANY lack of sensitivity...I have said NOTHING about the poor kid who drowned, once again, get off you arses and go have a look.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 3, 2012 22:00


Im both aghast and saddened how do you protect people from themselves Khun Sakon must ask himself this question daily, i can't decide if such ppl are full of bravado, stupid or uninformed whatever the logic the body count is stacking up.

Posted by traveller on June 3, 2012 22:17


Laurie Howells, my comment regarding sensitivity was not directed at you but at the person who made the comment about "contenders for this years Darwin awards". For the record, I agree with you regarding the positioning of the flags. Unfortunately I'm in Australia at the moment so can't see for myself but will have a look in three weeks when I'm back.

Posted by pete on June 4, 2012 10:17

Thursday June 20, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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