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Charity foundation rescuers recover Jenny Laidley's body on Karon beach

Phuket Drowning: Aussie Calls for Improvements at Karon

Friday, July 8, 2011
PHUKET: An Australian friend of a tourist who drowned on a Phuket beach this week has called for improvements to be made to save lives in future.

''We don't want this kind of thing happening again,'' said Lisa Crosland, 44, hours after she arrived back in Sydney after her tragic Phuket holiday.

A fellow nurse and her buddy of 20 years, Jennifer Laidley, also 44, of Canberra, went for a swim at dusk on Monday on the first day of a Phuket holiday and vanished into the surf at Karon beach.

''I am going to see Jenny's family and friends in Canberra tomorrow to hug them and give them some comfort,'' Ms Crosland told Phuketwan today.

She was called to Karon beach early yesterday by a lifeguard to see for herself where her friend's body had washed ashore, just a few hundred metres from the spot where she disappeared into the treacherous surf.

Ms Laidley's death is believed to be drowning number 12 at Karon beach since February last year - leaving local resorts in need of a comprehensive campaign to ensure the safety of all of their guests in future.

Ms Crosland agreed that if she and Ms Laidley had been warned in person on arrival at the Karon resort on Monday, they may not have gone for a swim later.

''The English of the staff is pretty basic so a notice at the reception desk - perhaps in several languages - might be an even better idea,'' she said.

Only after she returned to Australia did a friend point out that the resort where she stayed has a notice low down on its online site warning of the dangers.

''I did my research before heading to Phuket, and the notice is so far down the site that I didn't see it,'' she said.

Ms Crosland agreed that her overnight flight back to Sydney, following the death of her friend on the first day of the overseas holiday they'd been planning for 20 years, was a forlorn experience.

She believes that more thought also needs to go into positioning warning signs along the shorefront strategically.

Holidaymakers also needed to be aware of different standards in Phuket and Thailand, she said.

''We do things differently in Australia because we have the resources,'' she said.

The death of Ms Laidley on Phuket was widely covered by the Australian media, not just in the home cities of the two women. Australia provides Phuket with more tourists than any other nation.

Karon resorts probably now need to set higher standards and accept collective responsibility for warning guests about potential dangers at the beach between April and November, when it becomes treacherous.

The beach is one of Phuket's longest and lifeguards and red flags are not sufficient to ensure the visitors, keen to enjoy beach holidays, will not swim regardless of the risks.

It is believed Ms Laidley's relatives are arranging for her body, now at Vachira Hospital in Phuket City, to be repatriated to Australia.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


So tragic, this lady spent a large part of her life helping others she did not know by being a nurse and when she needed help no one was there to help her. Having spent several years in Phuket I think there should be large fines imposed for any vacation accommodation in Phuket that does not dispaly a very clear sign at reception that the sea is dangerous between April and November and the number of deaths between 2008 and 2011. How much does a sign cost? The money these resorts are taking from tourists, tourists deserve this at the very least. The government collects taxes which can easily pay for inspectors.

Posted by Adam on July 8, 2011 13:04


So to recap..

The Hotel did post a notice.
The red no swimming flags were out.
She went for a swim, at dusk, in "treacherous surf".

And this is somehow everyone elses fault and responsibility ?? Something that now requires more notices, being "warned in person" and if so 'maybe' they wouldnt have done it.

How about we just take the warning labels of everything, and let nature solve the overpopulation problem itself.

Posted by LivinLOS on July 8, 2011 13:50

Editor Comment:

LivinLOS, the hotel posted a notice in a little-read part of its online site. Does your callousness accurately represent your character? If so, I feel sorry for you. I'm not going to waste my time on your comments in future. Express yourself somewhere else.



Posted by BIgP on July 8, 2011 16:57

Editor Comment:

Your post is so insensitive and callous that it isn't going to run. You show no compassion and no understanding of the issue.

People who come to Phuket at this time of year have paid for a beach holiday and they expect to have a beach holiday - do you understand that much? Some of them are so happy to be on Phuket that commonsense eludes them - especially if the warnings are not reinforced more than once. Can you absorb that?

And it's the responsibility of Phuket authorities and resorts to make sure visitors are given every chance to survive their holiday - follow so far? If the beach is as dangerous as Karon, and if resorts fail to warn their guests properly, then perhaps it should be closed completely between April and October, as has already been suggested.


also have to add, I am regularly down at karon beach and the lifeguards do a heck of a good job! they spend much of their time running up and down the beach shouting at tourists who have ignored the warnings. much of the time the tourists ignore the shouting lifeguards and wave them away...what else can they do??

Posted by BIgP on July 8, 2011 17:12

Editor Comment:

The lifeguards can't do more. That's why the need is for the resorts to live up to their responsibilities. Not all new arrivals read English or Thai. Some resorts now warn their guests the minute they arrive. All resorts need to do that, otherwise Karon's reputation will become so bad that visitors will choose safer destinations in other countries. If resorts want people to come for beach holidays during the low season - and all of them do - then they must tell their guests in person in no uncertain terms about the danger, or face the consequences.


It is all too easy for people living in Phuket to think that people from overseas all understand the dangers of the sea. Many people I suspect live 100's miles from a beach in their homeland and even if they visit a coast the water is too cold to swim in. I also notice that Ms Laidley was from Canberra which is not on the coast. I think fine the resorts if there is no obvious sign in several languages AND a paper notice in several languages in every room with pictures as it is not practical to print in every language. Clearly not all people are aware of the severity of the dangers.

Posted by Adam on July 8, 2011 18:37


"Some of them are so happy to be on Phuket that commonsense eludes them"
Why should the HOTEL STAFF tell people not to enter the sea ? You could make the same arguement for Thai Immigration, Passport control, Tuk Tuk drivers, Beach Massage staff, even 7-11 staff !! They all benefit from Tourism in Thailand. I think you already hit the nail on the head "commonsense eludes them", maybe the RED flags, warning signs & life guards are simply ignorned by the bold....

Posted by NannyState on July 8, 2011 23:13

Editor Comment:

Having commonsense eluding you briefly is no reason to drown.

Constant repetition is the only way to get through to some people. That's the problem. Here, repeated almost verbatim, is what needs to happen and why:

Your view fails to take account the 12 drownings that have occurred at Karon since April last year.

This is a matter of collective responsibility. Karon beach is dangerous and holidaymakers are misled into believing it is safe. Often, the people who drown there cannot read English or Thai.

There is no sense that they have all been adequately warned, and there won't be until the resorts take their share of that collective responsibility.

The bad publicity about Karon beach will continue to grow with every death, as long as authorities fail to take proper precautions that will save lives.

It's plain that at present, the warnings do not deal with the overwhelming desire of holidaymakers to enjoy the beach holidays that they have paid for - to come to Thailand's most deadly beach at the wrong time of the year.

The resorts have a responsibility to help to protect them, and the better resorts already do so - by warning them as they arrive.

We have spent time on the beach when bodies are found, we have visited the morgue, we have gone to the intensive care units to see drowning victims who are in the process of dying.

We have talked to friends and relatives stunned at the lack of warning. We have talked to lifeguards whose constant message is: ''These people need to be warned by resorts BEFORE they go into the water.''

The answer to Karon's problem, and to saving lives, is for its resorts to take responsibility and warn all new arrivals in person, at check-in, in the appropriate language. Then the rest is up to the individuals.

Having commonsense eluding you briefly is no reason to drown.


Another tragic loss of life. To be honest it is impossible to express how dangerous the waters around Phuket are during April to November. prior to moving to Phuket 9 years ago I spent 40 years living in a seaside resort in the UK so I was use to the powers of the sea but I remember my first and only time I encountered the force of the rip tides in Phuket I was only knee deep and I had to really fight to get back to shore. Since then I have warned many people over the years some listen some don't.

Why not have a information card printed in all the main launguages warning of the dangers, stress the number of people that have drowned over the past years and have these cards at the immigration so when you get your passport stamped they put the card inside your passport. Have a sign behind the counters and at the baggage carousel stressing for your own safety the need to read and obey the card.Its not asking to much and if it saves one life then its worth it.

Posted by Neil.A on July 9, 2011 01:39

Editor Comment:

Everything helps, Neil, but people who are keen to enjoy the beach holiday that they've paid for at the most dangerous time of the year on Phuket will often ignore signs and brochures, especially at the airport with so much information - both serious and commercial - coming at new arrivals. It's vital that someone actually tell people, in person, and the logical person to do that is the receptionist at the check-in counter.


Jen was a school friend of mine for years and years. She was the most caring beautiful person ever. I don't think she had a bad word to say about anyone. How tragic that the the danger was not stressed strongly enough. How tragic for my friend.

Posted by Anonymous on July 10, 2011 20:36


I have stayed in a number of resorts in Sydney (Bondi + Manly) for nights out. I have never noticed signs warning of dangers regarding swimming between the flags.

Personal responsibility must be taken. While I feel for the family and friends of this lady, I feel only she is to blame for her death.

Given the education received in Australia about the dangers posed by the sea, she simply should have known better.

Signs probably are a great idea - but in this case I highly doubt it would have changed the outcome.

Posted by Joel M on July 11, 2011 07:19

Editor Comment:

It's important for readers to note that swimming between the flags is not dangerous - quite the opposite. That's the safest place to swim.

Your comparison between Phuket and Australian beaches is inappropriate on several levels.

Phuket resorts attract tourists all year long - unlike those in Bondi and Manly, which are summer-only destinations, and therefore safer beaches. Apart from a few hardy locals, people don't swim at Bondi and Manly in their winter low-season. It's too cold.

Bondi and Manly also have highly-trained and well-equipped summertime lifesavers, as distinct from Phuket's poorly-equipped and less well trained lifeguards.

As the victim in this case came from the inland city of Canberra, there is no knowing how familiar she was with the dangers. On past deaths, even strong swimmers have drowned at Karon.

This case is just one of 12 recent deaths, all of them different, and most of them involving non-English and non-Thai speakers.

No-one disputes the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own safety. However, Phuket also has a collective responsibility to send its low-season visitors home safely.

Australia also accepts the need for collective responsibility. Because of an increase in the number of tourist drownings in Australia, officials were recently looking at the prospect of delivering warnings on board incoming flights.

Warning visitors about the beach dangers repetitively is essential if Karon is to save its own reputation as a safe, year-round destination.

Resorts have a collective responsibility to help to protect their guests, and the better resorts already do so - by warning them as they arrive.


Sadly, I witnessed another drowning last evening near loma park in patong right before sunset. Pretty sure he was dead. I was waiting to read about it today, but haven't seen anything yet. Maybe the beaches should be closed.

Posted by BigP on July 11, 2011 15:52

Editor Comment:

The man in question is still breathing, BigP.. Maybe you should learn how to take a pulse.


I drove along Karon Beach yesterday, there are already large red warning signs put up at all entries to the beach. They read "Warning - rip currents on this beach". If tourists neither follow these warnings nor the instructions of lifeguards - than I must agree with other posters, it is their own fault and nobody else is to blame.
Do you really think that people who ignore even the lifeguards shouting at them to leave the water, would instead listen to a hotel staff or an announcement in the plane?
Maybe Karon's municipality should show the pictures of the dead at the warning signs, that would probably be more convincing for some tourists and is easily understandable even for non-English speakers.

Posted by Anonymous on July 11, 2011 17:54

Editor Comment:

How many languages were the signs in, nameless person? Only English? Thai and English?

Do you think that the warnings you saw will work for a one-language Russian tourist, or a Chinese tourist?

Are resorts that attract non-Thai and non-English-speaking tourists under a moral obligation to protect them as best as possible, or not?

So people deserve to drown for not being able to read English or Thai? Is that what you are saying, no-name?


This is another tragic, but avoidable story. Condolences to the family.

Yes we need to have warning signs in hotels and on the beaches, but one look at that surf, and as most Aussies know, it can well end in tears.

You shouldn't need someone else to tell you it's dangerous - look, no one else is in the water, what does that tell you?
The warnings are in Lonely Planet and Frommers and probably a lot more publications. Caveat de emptor - buy a holiday, know what you're getting. No one else's fault.

Posted by Junior on July 14, 2011 15:23

Editor Comment:

Have you seen warnings in Chinese, Russian and other languages apart from English, Junior? How many people, apart from coastal-dwelling Australians and Californians, know dangerous surf when they see it? Surely to many, it looks exactly like the beach holiday they'd been promised and paid for, and are now determined to enjoy. 'Caveat emptor' applied to goods bought and sold in Roman times but selling shoddy products in modern times is an invitation to be sued.


Clearly the lady broke all the rules, swimming at night, red flags, had just eaten, had drunk alcohol.

I completely agree with the editor that warnings in more languages should be available.

But my view is that has she survived, she should have been arrested and deported immediately.

Because she wasn't just risking her life on a silly whim, she was risking the lives of others that could have been lost in searching for her.

I'm interested also in the editor's reference to closing the beach.

What does he propose? A 10ft high fence along the waterline? or should all the hotels be closed, too?

Posted by Cardew on July 14, 2011 17:46

Editor Comment:

Closing the beach is a last resort but if the drownings continue, then there would be no other option. If there had been 12 drownings at any single beach in Australia or California in a similar short period, appropriate and compulsory changes to the intensity of warnings would have been made by now - or the beach would have been closed.

If resorts are not prepared to share responsibility for the protection of their guests, then draconian methods are the only alternative. Resorts can't invite customers to come to Karon all year round, and not take some responsibility.


I was staying at Karon beach at the time of the drowning. I was constantly told about how dangerous the beach can be at this time of year and there were also red flags right down the beach with clearly marked safe areas to swim in. The lifeguards can't be expected to be on duty at dusk. Tragic as this is, people need to know their limitations and use common sense.

Posted by Anonymous on July 15, 2011 12:28


It's a difficult situation. I can assure you that most hotels are doing what they can because no one wants a dead guest in their hotel. It does not do well for publicity and it's a trauma to handle as well.
But as you said, people paid for a beach holiday, they don't think surf warning should apply no matter what the guidebooks say, what hotel warnings say, what the lifeguards say. We have personally made translations of the warnings into Korean, Chinese and Russian and every day I get reports of our guests being pulled from the surf.

Others have commented on the hard work the lifeguards put in on the beaches itself trying to get people out of the waters. So things are being done, please stop saying it's not enough because nothing will ever be enough until the recipients of these warnings actually take heed.

That aside, have you seen the behavior of tourists on holiday? They all believe they are invincible on holiday - they drink and drive, they ride flimsy motorbikes without matter what type of warnings we issue and what language we issue them in, if the guest does not listen, he does not listen.
At this point in time, I have to be really callous and say, if you ignore a warning, then be prepared to pay for it.

Posted by May on July 15, 2011 14:55


Good insights May. Don't forget that those tourists driving motor bikes drunk without a helmet often have no license nor any experience driving a motor bike. They also have little or no idea about driving conditions in Thailand. Almost all guidebooks warn against this but they do it anyway. I wonder how many accidents could be prevented if an equal amount of attention was paid to enforcement of the "no bike rental without a license" law.

No one wants any more deaths on the beaches here. I applaud the efforts that have been made so far and appreciate the suggestions that this site has made but there are limits to what you can feasibly do. I have seen all the described behaviors (drownings included) in the Caribbean and Latin American tourist locations. A lot of it has to do with people going on vacation and not wanting to "think about anything" or even care. Sadly there are dire consequences.

Posted by Martin on July 15, 2011 18:24

Wednesday November 29, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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