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Nai Harn beach, scene of at least two drownings so far this year

Phuket Beach Swim Trauma Strikes Four Sisters

Sunday, February 14, 2010
Phuketwan UPDATE

The 12-year-old girl remained in a coma on Monday evening.

Original Report

A YOUNG GIRL was in a coma and fighting for her life tonight after a Valentine's Day drowning trauma came as a disturbing reminder that there are no lifeguards at any of Phuket's popular beaches.

The incident provided a dramatic flashback to the New Year's Day tragedy at the same beach, Nai Harn in Phuket's south, when a 10-year-old boy on a holiday picnic drowned and his eight-year-old companion narrowly escaped the same fate.

Today a German tourist found himself in the midst of a drama and applied heart massage in an effort to save Sirilak Klomsuk, aged 12. This evening her family was by her side at Vachira Hospital in Phuket City.

Doctors in the intensive care unit said Sisilak's condition was extremely serious and the odds were against her survival.

Recovering in another part of the hospital was Sirilak's 10-year-old sister Kanjana, who was also pulled from the water unconscious.

Elder sister Leelawadee, aged 16, managed to carry five-year-old Kanokporn to safety after all four sisters swam into difficulties at the southern end of the beach, the same end where the boy drowned on New Year's Day.

German tourist Juergen Wehrhahn, aged 50 and himself a father of five children aged seven to 19, was at Nai harn this afternoon and attempted to save Sirilak by applying heart massage and the kiss of life, otherwise known as cpr.

He told Phuketwan that the girl had been lost in the water for between five and eight minutes when he began cpr, which he applied for about 15 minutes until the ambulance arrived.

''I have a centre for rehabilitation about 50 kilometres from Hanover, so I have had to perform this technique five or six times in the past year, mostly for heart attacks,'' he said.

Mr Wehrhahn arrived on Tuesday to stay at a Patong Hotel and has been a regular visitor to Nai Harn since. He leaves next Sunday.

''I saw many people searching today and joined the search,'' he said. ''Then I saw three guys pull the girl up from the bottom. Whether she can be saved depends on how long she has been under.''

Regulars on the beach at Nai Harn are frustrated at the lack of a satisfactory year-round lifeguard system for Phuket's popular beaches. The island presents itself as a leading destination for beach holidays, yet frequently has no protection and an inadequate warning system.

While there is no guarantee that the presence of lifeguards would have saved young Sirilak, her chances of early rescue would have been considerably increased.

Water safety experts have questioned whether Phuket can ever hope to protect tourists and residents in the water with the present tendering system so clearly flawed.

In 2009, there were 53 drownings in Phuket waters. While some of these were not beach fatalities, when compared to the road death toll of 157, the number of drownings is shown to be clearly excessive.
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Phuket go back to sleep, you have proved once again, you don;t care for anybody, just money. I think that you are a very sick and backward island. May God rest your once loving and caring paradise.

Posted by Graham on February 15, 2010 05:42

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Accidents will happen, but if you see a child swimming unsupervised, or one on a motorbike without a helmet, talk to their parents.

Tell them to visit the Kusoldharm Foundation in Phuket Town to see what's going on in Phuket daily. Billboards posted outside (uncensored).

Posted by Philip on February 15, 2010 06:03

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Very sad news. I heard today on the radio that no companies made a proposal for the lifeguard contract on Phuket and as a result the authorities have 'sweetened' the offer. Now the service provider only has to provide services for 10 months a year (as opposed to the original 12 months) and the fee is still the same... 5 million THB. I was shocked at the fee... only 5 million THB has been allocated for something that is essential for tourism. Yet the authorities can muster hundred's of million to build another hospital, roads etc. etc. Oh, and a few billion from central govt. for a convention centre. Priorities seem to be amiss here. Unbelieveable!

Posted by Duncan on February 15, 2010 09:43

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I was there again unlike the new years day drowning I arrived after the events, there are no real warning signs in Thai for the problem at this end of the beach, the fast flowing water from the creek caused at low tide when all the water is flowing out leads into suddenly deep water, the beach there in the low season has a very steep gradient and you only have to walk one metre to be from knee high to out of your depth and its exactly this location where all these drownings have occoured.

A lifeguard did actually come up after the event and post a red flag in the area.

Disagree with you about the point that if there were lifeguards on the beach it could have been prevented as this is the only danger spot on the whole beach, a lifeguard telling Kids of the dangers and posted in that area could have prevented this.

Holidays especially extra lifeguards should be posted.

There are probably enough expats in the area also that could form a volunteer service, but sure by doing that the Thai law in someway would make you liable

Posted by Michael on February 15, 2010 11:39

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whoever makes the laws and decisions on Phuket, SHAME on you !

Posted by elizabeth on February 15, 2010 14:58

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I truly believe that life guarding, is another occupation that foreigners could easily fill. If Phuket stills portrays itself as a world class travel destination, well trained (certified?) staff should be on-duty. I don't know who currently oversees the beach security and safety operations that are in place (or not) around the island - but maybe something like this might be better handled on a more local level, say with the Or Bor Tor. I have had to pull a few local (Phuket island!)Thai teenagers out of the water myself over the years who were dressed in street clothes during red flag days. Guards should always be present and warn people of the hazards and ripe tides are. And jet skis should be given to qualified lifeguards.

Posted by peter rawai on February 15, 2010 20:03

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I hope Lonely Planet and the rest reads this and would put a big note in their Thailand Southern Island collection that travellers must remember to swim at their own risk.

Posted by peter rawai on February 15, 2010 20:08

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Good job, Mr. Wehrhahn. Hopefully it saved her life.

Nai Harn will be known as a kids graveyard. I really wonder, why families still go there. And when my kids go play the waves, I'll watch them closely. I am very sorry for the families pain, but I have to shake my head also.

I hope the family has real health insurance for the little one and not have to pull the plug because no funds available.

Posted by Lena on February 15, 2010 20:39

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Thanks Peter in Rawai.
Great idea, Falang Lifeguards, wouldn't that be great as a confidence boost to the tourist industry ? Or a marine extension of the Tourist Police ?

Posted by Andrew on February 16, 2010 10:00

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Phuket needs to develop a volunteer- based life saving movement similar to Australia where are there 269 surf clubs with membership of 98,000 of which 21,000 are involved in active patrolling of beaches.

The clubs conduct carnivals and other social and fun activities and are an integral part of Australian beach life. The steps involved:

1. Establish surf clubs at major beaches organized and run by volunteer members

2. Seek contributions from volunteers, corporate donors and other philanthropists

3. Establish a program to bring in volunteer lifeguards on a working holiday from Australia and the US. Provide them with a temporary work permit, accommodation and base allowance funded by government grants and other donations.

4. Encourage local youngsters to become actively involved

5. Appoint a development coordinator accountable to the Governor

Posted by Peter on February 16, 2010 14:28

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Thanks for the update, please keep us informed. Prayers and wishes going to the young girl.

Posted by Michael on February 16, 2010 14:50

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The only time Thai people will wake up to their problems, is when it hits the pocket. It's not just Phuket but many other towns in Thailand. When tourist start to get fed up with the robberies, muggings, death riding moped riders and cars drivers. Thailand is getting such a bad name and Phuket is at the top. Phuket you best wake up because the rats will be leaving the town.

Posted by Monica Vearer on February 17, 2010 08:08

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The 5 million baht leaves very little wiggle room so those in charge won't get "paid" for doing their job. The billions on offer for the conference centre however will enrich those overseeing it so naturally attention will be focused on the big pot. Put some more money in the tea fund and the job will get done. That's the way on Phuket.

Posted by Bernie on February 17, 2010 12:39

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To Peter's comments,

There is a system already in place for youngsters but it needs more help

Maybe phuketwan can do an interview with Jayne from Le Meridien and David who is the lifeguard instructor who comes over from Australia to see what can be done

Posted by Michael on February 19, 2010 00:28


Friday July 25, 2014
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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