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Plenty of room on this ferry to Phi Phi, but none coming back today

Phuket Sinking Victims Stranded on Phi Phi: Trippers Turned Away From Phuket Ferries

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Room has been found on Phi Phi to Phuket ferries today for four passengers - two Koreans and two New Zealanders - who have flights off Phuket this afternoon and early tomorrow. The other speedboat sinking survivors remain stranded.

Original Report

PHUKET: Traumatised victims of a speedboat sinking were turned away when they tried to board a ferry on Phi Phi this morning to return to Phuket, a distressed Australian tourist said by phone to Phuket today.

Now at least one envoy, Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham, is calling on authorities to send a Royal Thai Navy ship to rescue the stranded speedboat sinking victims.

The suggestion came from a spokesperson for the Chao Fa Krabi Rescue Centre, which yesterday played a major role in coordinating the rescue of the 41 people left in the sea when the speedboat slipped beneath the waves.

The 13 day-trippers now stranded on Phi Phi - including two-year-old Sena Ergun and her eight-year-old sister Beyza - were flung into the water yesterday when their holiday speedboat ignored weather warnings and sank in a storm.

''They turned us back,'' the girls' father, Hakan Ergun, from Sydney, said today. Rain was pounding Phi Phi and Phuket today, making conditions unsafe on the water again.

Two large ferries at Phi Phi pier were crowded with holidaymakers desperate to leave the bad weather behind them. About 100 people were turned away.

There was no room on the ferries for Mr Ergun, his wife Zuhal and their children, or the other rescued tourists - two New Zealanders, two Turkish people, three Kuwaitis and two Koreans.

Twelve of the people rescued from the sea off Phi Phi yesterday were taken to the island where they spent the night, while the other 24 rescued passengers were brought directly back to Phuket yesterday.

Amid a second day of chaos piled on chaos, the New Zealanders - Elizabeth Hickey and William Ihaka - are certain to miss their flight home, due to take off at 3.15pm today.

While the rescue was carried out successfully, the marine authorities who are supposed to enforce safety regulations seldom are seen inspecting speedboats or preventing outings in dangerous weather.

Mr Cunningham said the issue of safety at sea for tourists was likely to be raised ''at the highest level'' by ambassadors in Bangkok with the Thai Government.

Australian families also narrowly escaped when a speedboat sank between Phi Phi and Phuket in January.

Today's debacle follows an after-hours fire on Phuket 10 days ago at the Tiger Disco in which four people - two of them tourists - were asphyxiated.

As the cause of the blaze is investigated, questions have been raised about the capacity of Phuket police and officials to ensure tourists' safety meets international standards.

When a dive boat capsized and sank off Phuket in 2009, killing seven people, no aerial search was made for the 23 survivors, adrift in two liferafts.

Eventually the survivors borrowed a mobile telephone from a passing fishing boat and organised their own rescue.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Suggest the Ergun family tell their story of lack of safety, abandonment ,and follow-up assistance rendered to "This Day Tonight".

That program seems to attract attention here.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on August 28, 2012 10:44

Editor Comment:

TDT hasn't been around this century, Hugh. But we know what you mean.


Instead of looking to blame others, the passengers should ask themselves why they went out on a boat in dangerous conditions. The lack of safety is no secret People have an obligation to think.

Posted by Ryan on August 28, 2012 11:44

Editor Comment:

If conditions are unsafe, boats shouldn't take to the water. It's that simple. This is not the equivalent of surfing on a bad day, Ryan. Boats are supposed to be regulated and controlled by sensible captains. Nothing to do with the passengers.


Ryan...also I think many tourist are assuming that things here are the same as back home...that if a boat is going out, all safety equipment and procedures are top notch and up to date...which is why they are operating...maybe thats a little naive...but then again, you can't blame them for assuming, either.

Posted by sky on August 28, 2012 12:43

Editor Comment:

International destination . . . international standards. No standards, no tourists.


I cannot believe the comments of those who blame the victims. People come on holiday to relax from the pressures of having to think & plan for themselves, pay good & sometimes large sums of money to put their lives & trust in the hands of so-called professionals, so they can enjoy the experience. It is the complete lack of professionalism brought about by lack of government authority controls that is leading to so many such incidents. Do not blame the tourists & do not whinge about more bad publicity for Phuket either. It is well deserved for incidents like this.

Posted by Logic on August 28, 2012 13:35


It is well and nice to say there should be international standards, but the reality is that there are none. And yet, the tourists still come. The onus is on the visitor to do his/her homework. It is no secret that safety is not a priority here. It is not about blaming the victims, but of recognizing that these people made poor decisions. It wasn't too long ago we read of other boat incidents in Phuketwan. Has anything changed for the better? No. Yet, tourists still use those boats. Sorry, but one needs his head examined to get in a small craft in choppy seas when there are alternative options available such as a ferry.

Posted by Ryan on August 28, 2012 15:08

Editor Comment:

There are those who don't want international standards to be applied here and those who do. Accept the present standards, and you are no better than those who fail to apply them. Work to improve them for the future, and maybe Phuket has a chance. The choices are obvious, Ryan. No point in blaming visitors because their knowledge about Phuket is confused by false marketing.


@ryan, i went on one of these speedboats in july 2010 it was perfect conditions at 10am in the morning,when we left phi phi at 15.00 within 15 min a storm hit us,1 engine cut out and the other was nearly going we just managed to get to a nearby small island where we were sat in the boat for 90 min waiting for another speedboat to take us to phuket.It was the most terrifying experience i have gone through,so no you cant blame the tourists for getting in the boat in the morning because they assume they will be safe.

Posted by Darren walker on August 28, 2012 16:22


Mr Cunningham is once again doing an excellent job. He must be the hardest working consul on Phuket.
After the knife job done on him by Today Tonight I respect this man even more.
Having said that it is sad that due to Australian tourists, not the victims of this incident, being such drunken bogans who have no idea about how to have a holiday during which they respect another countries laws and customs.
Mr Cunningham should be congratulated for his constant efforts on behalf of those bogans

Posted by Arthur on August 29, 2012 05:36

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