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Swimmers in the water at Phuket's Karon even though the beach was closed yesterday after the disappearance of a tourist

Phuket Beach Safety Campaign Begins: Drowned Tourist Found

Saturday, July 23, 2011
UPDATE

The body of Chinese tourist Ru Qing Lin was recovered before dawn today by charity foundation workers, lifeguards and the man's family learned this afternoon. The family had been guests at Karon's beach road Woraburi Phuket Resort and Spa, said China's honorary consul.

Original Report

PHUKET: A new campaign to save tourists from drowning on Phuket is to begin as rescuers wait for the sea to return the body of a Chinese tourist who vanished in the surf at Phuket's deadly Karon beach at dusk on Thursday.

Rough weather struck Phuket's west coast again today, preventing a full-scale search for the man continuing.

Local Karon authorities met with lifeguard officials yesterday and agreed to new measures to try to stem the drownings at Karon beach, where 12 people have drowned since April 2010.

Karon beach is to be closed from 6pm each day to try to prevent further drownings close to sunset. Lifeguards will string white cord between red flags to indicate the beach is unsafe and closed.

Brochures warning of the dangers at Karon and other Phuket beaches are to be distributed to all Karon resorts - and the resorts are to be asked to warn all guests as they check in about the dangers of swimming during the April-October monsoon season.

This month's double drownings of 27-year-old Ru Qing Lin and Australian Jennifer Laidley, 43, were similar. Both drowned on their first day on Phuket. Both went for a swim at Karon at dusk, after the lifeguards had departed.

Other tourists have drowned on their last or second-last day.

The quirks of tragic arrivals and departures indicate how determined holidaymakers are to swim on their beach holidays, even if they perceive that red flags mean the beach is unsafe, and even if they have read warning signs.

However, many victims do not speak or read Thai or English and some do not have even the most basic comprehension of the dangers of swimming in the sea.

Most Phuket resorts entice tourists to come to Phuket year-round, but often fail to act responsibly by warning them on arrival immediately, in person, about the monsoon season dangers.

Flowery language on the resorts' web sites often falsely encourages the belief that Karon and other beaches are safe all year long.

Lifeguards frequently often have problems ordering people out of the water, even after someone has drowned at the same spot earlier that day.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I am a friend of Jennifer Laidley who drowned on Karon beach on the 4/7/11. I do not believe the signage and warnings were adequate for such a dangerous beach. I would encourage you to increase the warnings and save another tragic death. thankyou

Posted by martin wilson on July 23, 2011 14:43

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If Karon beach is really that dangerous, maybe warning lights (rotating red lights) would be a good idea, when the lifeguards are gone and the conditions are bad. The cord is just a joke for most. I know some mountainous lakes with lights as storm warning (mostly for the sweet water sailors, but nevertheless also the swimmers). When they start the lights, you know you have to leave the lake.

Posted by Lena on July 23, 2011 16:31

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There are a lot of tourists out there who think they're good swimmers and a whole lot more who simple will not be told what to do. A piece of rope is not going to stop them - nor will flags, lights or whatever. It's only when it's too late that they realise the warning was founded. I experience this problem where I am almost everyday. People simply don't listen.

Posted by Dawn on July 23, 2011 21:12

Editor Comment:

There may be a degree of over-confidence among some, but in most cases, the victims are not told often enough or in the right way. They should be told time and time again. Having enticed them to Phuket for a beach holiday at a dangerous time of the year, it's the shared responsibility of resorts to keep them from risking their lives.

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I am a keen beach goer and it is definitely a concern to see so many people tragically losing there life from rips or swimming at night.
I have done some research online especially youtube and there is so much information about what to do if caught in a rip. maybe some information could be posted on what to do rather than not swimming at all. I hope this helps.
I do not know about how much support the lifeguards get or there funding, but i would more than be willing to at least donate some cash so they are better equiped to deal with these conditions. In australia the lifesavers are campaigning all the time for more equipment and better training.
I hope these thoughts help in some small way.

Posted by Paul Sumsion on July 23, 2011 23:34

Editor Comment:

Hello Paul, Unfortunately the people who drown are mostly the ones who have not looked at youtube in advance of their beach holiday. And the two people who have drowned this month went into the water after the lifeguards had left the beach for the day, so better equipment, although it would help with general safety, is not the whole answer. What needs to be accepted is the underlying cause: that people on a beach holiday want to swim and will reject most warnings unless those warnings are delivered repeatedly and personally from the time they arrive. In some cases, language is a problem. Rips probably claim some victims, but in other cases I suspect they are not aware of the power of waves and their problems begin with being knocked over in the shallows. Karon, it has to be said, is particularly deadly between April and October.

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It's tragically true that even strong and good swimmer underestimate the waves and currents in Phuket. Me too. I got a risk when I spent my first days here: I'm still alive only because of my very long experience and a very good shape in that moment. But seven years ago no beachguards and non signals. Now there are advertising everywhere.. But the ignorance is hard to eradicate and the people on holidays underevaluated any kind of risk (think about rent a motorbike).

Posted by Dave on July 24, 2011 09:12

Editor Comment:

I wonder how many deaths there were on Phuket's beaches before journalists began reporting them. Resorts have for years encouraged guests to come to Phuket in the monsoon season but until lately, most never bothered to warn them.

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Ed - you have a better memory than me.
Didn't they rebrand Phuket to Summer Season or something?

With words like that we picture something quite different.

Posted by Tbs on July 24, 2011 10:31

Editor Comment:

A promotional campaign labelled the monsoon season as ''Summer'' to encourage more year-round visitors. It was, as marketing often is, a sales pitch without substance. The way Phuket is presented as a year-round beach destination certainly contributes to the problem.

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Ed; It doesn't matter how many signs or verbal warnings the resorts make or how many signs or ropes they put on the beaches [in fact, even if they built a prison type concrete and barbed wire fence] you are not going to stop people going to swim at any beach on any day. There are the "it won't happen to me" types, there are the "blissfully ignorant" who have no idea of the potential threat, and there are the "i'll do what i bl--dy well like" types. There is no way on earth to prevent drownings when dealing with such variables of people.!! The only way is a huge presence of highly trained lifesavers to be on hand to rescue these people as soon as they get into difficulties, and even then people are still going to drown...sad but true.In Aus and other beachside countries, even with all types of "authortitorian measures" people still drown because of not complying, unless they are coralled into a safety "swim between the flags" zone. All the flags and warnings in the world will never convince people to not enter the danger zone. Its human nature.
However,apparently this is not a viable option at Karon, so this toll is never going to stop. Hopefully it can be lowered but the only way the toll will cease is to ,as i said, have a huge number of highly trained and equipped professionals on hand actively engaged in protecting and preventing mishaps. This means also having the ability to "read" the conditions, moving the safety zones to suit, and being proactive at all times. Having people on quads patrolling up and down the beach, advising, directing, berating if neccessary...it all helps, but sadly you will always find idiots who heed no-one...statistics in the making...All the ''wrapped in cottonwool'' tactics you can think of will never work 100% of the time.

Posted by davidj949 on July 24, 2011 12:17

Editor Comment:

Most victims fall into a category you do not mention, the ''unblissfully ignorant.'' These people would not swim if they were aware that 12 people had drowned on Karon beach in the past 16 months.
You also seem to overlook the fact that the last two victims went into the water after the lifeguards had gone for the day. How many times does this need to be said: once people enter the water, it's too late. That's why the proactive ''stop!'' campaign needs to begin with advice as flights descend to Phuket and continue verbally at every resort the minute that each guest checks in. No amount of good equipment helps if the lifeguards are not on the beach.

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As an IRONMAN who would train at Patong and Kata beach I would often swim out beyond the breaking waves and swim along and come back in at the ends or were I could body surf between the rips that I could see from seaward. I found the first time I went into the water at Karon beach that it was far more dangerous and unpredictable mainly because it drops so suddenly off near the shore and the rips are in constant motion along the beach and even body surfing would not guarantee I would not get caught out and drown. Karon beach, when waves reach one meter or above, is just plain deadly and should be closed period. I never train there. Kata and Patong should have designated marked off areas for limited swimming.

Posted by mike on July 24, 2011 12:20

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Editor Comment:

Most victims fall into a category you do not mention, the ''unblissfully ignorant.'' These people would not swim if they were aware that 12 people had drowned on Karon beach in the past 16 months.

Apart from the fact that "unblissfully" doesn't exist [sometimes your weird sense of humor crosses over with your often impolite responses so readers dont know what you are on about frquently] so, i'll take it as a joke huh.
Your statement that these people would not swim if they had known so many people had drowned is utter humbug..People do what they want to do at the time!!You could apply the same crazy logic to every other event ..riding motorcycles, travelling on buses, trains etc ad nauseum...people dying previously rarely stops other people doing what they need/want to do.
As for two of the twelve swimming after dusk when the lifeguards have gone home.....exactly..??? all the signs in the world aren't going to save some people.Take responsibility for your own actions first and foremost.Average intelligence suggests playing in the ocean at dusk is akin to playing on the road at dusk.Dont do it!!

Posted by davidj949 on July 24, 2011 17:39

Editor Comment:

I didn't realise, davidj949, that like me and Phuketwan's reporters, you've talked to the family and friends of victims, to lifeguards, and to others with direct experience of drownings. As I keep saying - and as most readers probably understand by now - these people come for a beach holiday and having paid for one, they are determined to enjoy it. Motorcycles are a known quantity to visitors. Karon beach is not . . . unless staff at resorts tell them. Caring people don't accept drownings as inevitable.

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There is no replacement for common sense. Obviously, if the waves are rolling in over your head, the seas are rough, and you are an inexperienced swimmer, you shouldn't go in the water! Regardless of language, common sense should dictate. you cannot police people who can't think for themselves. BTW Mr. Editor, you give expats a bad name. You are very rude and should clean up!

Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2011 02:23

Editor Comment:

People who are enticed to come to Phuket during the monsoon season for a beach holiday will attempt to enjoy the holiday because they have paid good money for it. From a visitor's perspective, that's commonsense. Perhaps it would also be commonsense for resorts not to pretend that Karon beach is safe at that time of the year? ''Rips'' form where the waves are not, so the surf appears safe. Blaming the victims for being somehow less intelligent (''you cannot police people who can't think for themselves'') is about as rude as it gets, no-name.


Thursday August 11, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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