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The missing man's friends help police with information at Freedom Beach

Phuket Tourist Lost in Surf at Freedom Beach: Second French Drowning Feared

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A body that was brought ashore at Phuket's Kata beach before noon on Monday is believed to be Stephane Dacosta, who disappeared while swimming at Freedom Beach, several kilometres to the north, on Sunday.

Original Report

PHUKET: A French tourist is missing, presumed drowned after disappearing in surf at Phuket's Freedom Beach this afternoon.

The man, aged 32 and staying on Phuket with six friends, vanished around 3pm, Phuket police have been told.

If the man turns out to have drowned, it will be the second drowning at Phuket beaches in three days - and both victims are French.

Frenchman Angelo Piazza, 53, died in Patong Hospital after being pulled from the surf at Karon, south of Patong, on Friday. Several other swimmers needed rescuing.

Beach vendors had to substitute for lifeguards, who have not patrolled Phuket's most popular beaches since April 7 because of contract negotiations and a tendering process.

But lifeguards do not in any case usually patrol Freedom Beach, close to Patong. It's one of the more difficult beaches on Phuket to access and people usually traverse a rough track or travel there by longtail boat.

Meanwhile, Paiboon Upatising, President of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organsiation, told Phuketwan yesterday that he hoped a new contract would be signed in time for the Phuket Lifeguard Service to resume beach patrols from Tuesday.

The Phuket Lifeguard Service is a privately-owned company that replaced the Phuket Lifeguard Club some time ago as service providers. Former office-bearers in the club now run the company.

Khun Paiboon reiterated that the tendering process had twice been opened for submissions but there were no takers. That meant the administrative organisation could invite the Phuket Lifeguard Service to take on the role.

According to Khun Paiboon, the administrative organisation has to seek tenders and follow due process or it would be in breach of the law.

Water safety experts, however, point out that lifeguards on a year-round beach holiday destination are in a similar category to police and firemen and need to be on the beaches every day.

The same problem was experienced last year. Drownings do also occur when lifeguards are on patrol but to not have lifeguards on beaches at the most dangerous time of the year - the monsoon season - is considered by many to be unacceptable.

Once the contract is signed - and the Phuket Lifeguard Service still has some reservations about the worn-out equipment being provided by the administrative organisation - 13 of Phuket's west coast beaches will be protected by 106 lifeguards.

The service is considered to have improved the numbers of rescues, standards and training from the time a few years ago when lifeguards could usually be found asleep in the now-obsolete guard towers.

If Freedom Beach grows more popular, as appears to be happening, it should probably also be included among the Phuket beaches protected by lifeguards.

The beach has made the news recently for other reasons. Officials believe large plots of land on the Freedom Beach shorefront have been corruptly acquired by a businessman seeking to sell the property for resort development and a profit of billions of baht.

Today's search for the missing man, who was staying with his friends at the Brother Guesthouse in Patong, is expected to resume at daylight on Monday.

Phuketwan has his name but will not publish it until relatives in France have been notified.

Given the two latest beach drownings are French, it may be that the French Ambassador is the appropriate person to seek a change in Thai law so that lifeguards can always be on Phuket beaches and Phuket can be considered a safe year-round beach holiday destination.

Warnings to tourists who come to Phuket for beach holidays during the dangerous monsoon season, when surf is heavier and perilous unseen rips develop at some beaches, do not appear to be adequate.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


"But lifeguards do not in any case usually patrol Freedom Beach..."

Which is sad because if I recall this is one of the beaches where the adjacent land owners demand payment from people who want to use the beach. Even from people that arrive by boat. Or has that practice ceased?

Posted by Joe on May 21, 2012 00:08


"Unseen rips", well, from my experience and that of many Australians, rips are not "unseen", in fact they are easy to see, but only if you know what to look for, sand in the water being sucked out to sea, this is how Australian lifeguards detect rips, which are them flagged off, but also monitored very closely.

Posted by Laurie Howells on May 21, 2012 09:09


I guess some of these people just cannot swim at all or a very very weak swimmers as yesterday the swell was small and not dangerous at all, so to drown in those conditions you would have to have very poor water skills.

Posted by carvets on May 21, 2012 10:43

Editor Comment:

The ''unseen'' rips are the problem, carvets. A rip will carry a swimmer out to sea and a poorly informed swimmer will fight against it until exhausted . . . the best notion is to float out to sea with the rip, then move left or right to escape it. But executing the move that will save your life is a severe test of willpower for poor swimmers.


ED...very good advise as human nature is to swim the shortest distance to shore, however, that means swimming against the rip, cause extreme exhaustion, then possible drowning, this I know from personal experience, many years ago while out swimming at triggs beach, Perth, Western Australia (yes I'm another bloody aussie) a rip formed while I was heading back to the beach, unfortunately for the rest of the world, I made it, but was totally exhausted, to the point of collapse and vomiting, am so thankful that swimming lessons and water safety are given to most Australian school kids. If you CAN NOT sawim, do not venture beyond your waist, otherwise a rip WILL carry you beyond your depth.

Posted by Laurie Howells on May 21, 2012 11:55


"The ''unseen'' rips are the problem, carvets. A rip will carry a swimmer out to sea and a poorly informed swimmer will fight against it until exhausted . . . the best notion is to float out to sea with the rip, then move left or right to escape it. But executing the move that will save your life is a severe test of willpower for poor swimmers."

Not exactly Ed. As Laurie Howells said, you need to know what to look for. And one should swim parallel to the beach, away from the rip ASAP, so you are not taken out to sea...

Posted by Jim McGowan on May 22, 2012 06:53

Editor Comment:

Try to swim parallel too early, Jim, and we may not see you again. We have already given readers good advice. International water safety expert David Field says there are two fixed rips at Karon. These fixed rips are dangerous all year long. They can be found near Karon's central monument and near the Karon roundabout. These two known rips are still killing people, which is shameful.
The answers have been evident for years:
It's about time the local authorities acted.


No such information available at the hotel as ''fixed rips'' on Karon Beach, till after you learned about the accident or like me experienced nearly drowning there.
Even a little info can save many lives, raising awareness among tourists.

Posted by Yoko on May 24, 2012 13:36

Monday July 15, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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