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Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham (right) greets passengers

Phuket Speedboat Sinking: Captain Told Us It Was Safe, Say 'Lost' Tourists

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
PHUKET: Tourists on a day-trip speedboat that sank off Phuket had asked the captain before leaving Phuket if it was safe to go to sea, survivors of the sinking said yesterday.

''With two children, we were very careful,'' said Australian Zuhal Ergun, who ventured out with husband Hakan and daughters Sena, two, and Beyza, eight.

''We asked the captain before boarding on Phuket. The captain asssured us he had checked the weather forecast and that the the trip would be fine.''

Two speedboat sinkings off Phuket so far this year and a handful of narrow escapes are likely to increase pressure for Phuket's speedboats to be obliged not to put to sea on days when dangerous storms are forecast.

Turkish and Kuwait tourists backed the Hakan's statement that the speedboat, which sank in a violent storm off Phi Phi on Monday, should never have left Phuket.

The 13 tourists finally returned to Phuket late yesterday after being unable to board a Phuket-bound ferry from Phi Phi in the morning because of the crush of people wanting to leave Phi Phi.

Mr Egun said of the speedboat sinking: ''The boat crew were hopeless. We virtually had to put on lifejackets and organise our own evacuation from the sinking boat.

''I spotted the water coming up from the bottom of the boat. At first, the crew didn't believe me, until they opened a hatch and found it filled to the top.''

Mrs Egun, suffering cuts and scrapes as she clambered off the sinking vessel, managed to swim clear with Beyza.

But Mr Ergun, cradling his two-year-old, said he narrowly escaped going down with the speedboat as it sank, briefly pulling them under the water with it.

The 13 tourists - the first to be rescued, by boats from Phi Phi - were taken to Phi Phi.

The other 24 survivors had to tread water for an hour or more, awaiting rescue, before being picked up and transported straight back to Phuket.

That group were mostly Chinese and British. For those who could swim, it was an ordeal. For those who couldn't swim, it was a nightmare.

With the Australians among the ''forgotten'' speedboat passengers from Phi Phi who returned to Phuket yesterday were Turkish visitors Eylem Colak, 32, Gulben Gunduz, 34, and Kuwaitis Jaseem Alshirati, 55, with nephews Yosef Alshirati, 15, and Abdullah Alshirati, 13.

All of them confirmed that the captain had reassured passengers it was safe to go out, and said the sinking was a terrifying experience they would never forget.

A representative from PNT Travel, also operating under New Generation travel Co Ltd, organised for the 13 travellers to be met at Rassada Pier yesterday and transported to their Phuket resorts.

Envoys in Bangkok are likely to press government officials to improve safety standards on boat trips around the region by making sure speedboats stay anchored when violent Phuket storms are predicted.

Comments

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I will try again...the boats are constructed to squeeze in the highest no of people, unless there is absolutely no waves then the ride is at best uncomfortable, there is no check on the boats while being constructed, they don't have to conform to any standards, anybody can do one of these plywood/fiber boats. The forces on the boats are enormous when they slam into the waves and over time damage is done to the construction. They carry a large amount of fuel as the 200hp motors easily consumes 25l/h however that does not prevent the boat boys from smoking next to the motors, the ability to fight a fire on board is at best inadequate, anybody that have done some safety fire training will know that a fire extinguisher does not easily put out a fuel fire. The boats do not carry any life rafts, only lifesaving equipment are the life vests which are not approved and likely locally made, no CE marking or US coast guard approval stamped on them. The boats do not carry marine radios for the most part but rely on mobile phones for "distress calls", sometimes there is no coverage on the sea, and on assistance from friends in other boats.
So why are the boats being used ? Well it is a very lucrative business , and luckily the boats seem to be approved to the no of people it is possible to squeeze in them and nothing else.
Will there be accidents in the future ? Of course there will be, and maybe there will not be a lucky ending next time.

Posted by Bjarne on August 29, 2012 11:07

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"he had checked the weather forecast and that the the trip would be fine."
Next time, ask for the 'web address' or telephone 'number', of his 'weather forecast check', please. Would like to know, who's his source!

Posted by ??? on August 29, 2012 11:36

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Congratulation indeed to PW for the detailed report. Behind the captain's statement, I can smell a sort of pressure from his employer to do the trip anyway to fulfill cash profits. Tour leaders (alias Thai guides) are in charge for the whole trip and they have the last word to decide weather to leave or stay. This is one of the reasons why professional Western guides might fit better for the job in this particular situation

Posted by cekipa on August 29, 2012 13:07

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@ cekipa
"This is one of the reasons why professional Western guides might fit better for the job in this particular situation"

As long the western guides get paid on daily work base, mostly: Do you really think so? To many, of this so called 'pro' westerners, 'in need' of working (payed) days. No trip, no brreakfast, no lunch, no money. Simple, isn't it?

Posted by ??? on August 29, 2012 13:28

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Being extremely careful is something different to me. If you have heavy rains and news about storms nearby - you don't go on speedboats no matter how much a profit oriented business will assure you that its safe.

Posted by Jakub on August 29, 2012 13:58

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Pray do tell what is a Jacket Lift in the seventh picture and how do you wear one? The sign has a Bicardi lable in it. Is it something to do with alcoholic cocktails or the like?

Posted by Robin on August 29, 2012 14:17

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A typical Thai speedboat is a wooden frame with plywood panels nailed to it and coated with Gelcoat. Even in good conditions they have a "shelf life" of no more than 3-4 years before the whole construction just disintegrates.

None of these boats would ever be allowed to operate in the developed world and would fail all safety inspections.

International travel agencies and tour companies need to start to demand boats to be certified to international safety standards.

The accidental tourist needs to be able to trust the services he is provided to be safe.

Phuket always boasts being an international holiday destination but it sure does NOT comply with international standards.

Travel agencies are in a pivotal position here. If they refuse to buy trips run in these plywood coffins, eventually operators will be forced to upgrade to safe, certified boats or will simply go out of business.

Posted by Andrew on August 29, 2012 15:22

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It appears I must eat crow and apologise for my previous comments about personal resposibilty.
I wholehearted apologise for my comments concerning Mr Ergun.
It appears that the captain either did not recognize the danger or ignored it in an effort to make money.
Once again I apologize

Posted by Arthur on August 29, 2012 18:30

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@??? :
there is already a difference between me and you which is I put my name in this thread but you don't. The second, it might be that 37 people's life would get my priority over my 1 day trip, breakfast, lunch, dinner, pay, sleep, house and so on. This because, where I was born, life does not come cheap. How about you ?....

Posted by cekipa on August 29, 2012 21:17

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daily during the monsoon season i ride along the rawai beach front and look in amazement at the people boarding these speedboats ... bus load after bus load of tourists lined up ... go down any windy or wet day and they still load up and go, i scratch my head as to why anyone would go in dangerous conditions ...is it really worth it ?

Posted by chris on August 30, 2012 06:44


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