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Karon, the Phuket beach where nobody reads the signs or sees the flags

Phuket's 'Beach of Death' Kills Two Tourists: Third Tourist Now Out of Hospital

Friday, January 14, 2011

One of two tourists who drowned at Karon beach today has been named as Erik Larsin, 58, from Denmark. Relatives have been notified. The other man who drowned is a Russian, aged about 40. A third tourist, German Gisbert Mergler, 49, was treated in intensive care at Phuket International Hospital after being rescued at neighboring Kata, and has been discharged.

Original Report

TWO tourists, one from Russia and one from Sweden, are reported to have drowned today at Karon, the long stretch of sand that now has the deserved reputation of being Phuket's ''Beach of Death.''

Phuket Lifeguard sources said that both deaths were male, one from Sweden and the other from Russia. Red ''no swim'' flags were flying, the lifeguard said.

The first drowning came at 11am on the beach in front of the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa, a Karon beach lifeguard told Phuketwan. The second drowning followed about 2pm a little further down the beach, near the Golden Dragon statue, the lifeguard said.

Sources said that in one of the cases, the man was rescued from the surf, and given cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on the beach. The man stood up, said he was feeling better, then fell over.

He was taken to Patong Hospital, where the bodies of both tourists are now. The Swedish man is believed to have been holidaying on Phuket with his family. Police are still in quest of someone who may know the Russian man.

Phuketwan is seeking updated information and hopes to confirm the nationalities and names of the two drowned men shortly.

In two rescues today at other beaches, one Western tourist was pulled from the sea at Kata and sent to Patong Hospital, while another expat male was allowed to go after being given oxygen at Patong.

Karon beach, two years ago at No. 4 on the Lonely Planet list of ''The Best Family Beaches in the World,'' now has an unenviable reputation for all-too-frequent drownings - and all year long, not just in the extra-dangerous monsoon season.

Figures of the number of drownings on Phuket in 2010 are due for release any day now, and the annual total is expected to show a substantial reduction on the previous year.

However, the tally of deaths at Karon is unacceptably high, probably exceeding double figures.

To start 2011 in January - the calm and safer high season - with two deaths means that Karon beach should probably be closed to all swimmers until the local authorities produce a comprehensive plan to prevent further deaths.

Strangely, many of the deaths from drowning at Karon beach have been omitted from an official police list of all the deaths of expats on Phuket, submitted every three months when Phuket honorary consuls meet the Phuket Governor.

Unusual weather patterns across the region from Sri Lanka to Australia are believed to have created conditions in which deadly monsoonal ''rips'' continue despite the onset of the usually tranquil December-April high season on Phuket.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


exceeding double figures? That's 100+!

Posted by stuart on January 14, 2011 17:59


How about the sign on Kata Beach? Half of it is missing, the Tessaban is aware of it and said it will take time.
Of course we all know there should be lifeguards year round.

Posted by Vfaye on January 14, 2011 18:09


While you have to appreciate that additional efforts have been made I think it's obvious that it's not enough. The authorities really do need to explore other avenues in order to make it safer for tourists.

I'm sure there are many that don't want to see the beaches closed when it's not safe but are there any other alternatives?

Would be interesting to see if any more is done here.

Posted by Graham on January 14, 2011 18:22


Graham: "I'm sure there are many that don't want to see the beaches closed..."

Close the beaches? Reminds me the film "Jaws"...

Mrs. Taft: Are you going to close the beaches?
Brody: [after brief pause] Yes, we are.
[townspeople erupt into dismayed argument]

Posted by Mike Boyd on January 14, 2011 18:51


In Australia nearly 50% of the drownings on the surf beaches are new immigrants or tourists and they have very well patrolled beaches. These people have no real swimming skills or experience and do not understand the risks in the sea. More information needs to be made available to these people. However they will always be a high risk group.

Posted by jb on January 14, 2011 23:17

Editor Comment:

Yes. We've suggested that for people who are on a beach holiday and determined to swim, a three-tiered approach is needed: a video warning on the flight descending to Phuket; a warning in person on check-in from the receptionist; signs and flags on the beaches. A leaflet might help, too. Without the three stages, the warnings are inadequate.


Being in Karon right now I have seen the waves. BUT, after I had been in the water I saw the red flag. And I just thought it was a warning. The flag is too small, too low and I still haven't seen the sign explaining the flags colors. Put up a BIG flag so we can see it!

Posted by Ann on January 15, 2011 00:33


stuart...exceeding double figures? That's 100+!

when i see ''double figures'' i understand it means ''two'' 'exceeding double figures'' means 10+

Posted by dave on January 15, 2011 10:20



I will be kind and assume you are Australian. Double figures means more than 9. More than double figures means.....?

Posted by stuart on January 15, 2011 14:16


There should be published some brochures which explains the nature of the rip currents - escape sidewards etc.
And the colors are confusing - red/yellow for safe area, would it not be logical to change that to green, and show it clear on more signs.
In "Jaws" the only possibility was to close the beach, here the problem can be solved with small things that just should be done.
Any commercial company could do that for less than 100.000 bath within few days.

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on January 15, 2011 15:21

Editor Comment:

I don't think it's that simple. People who come for a beach holiday expect to be able to swim. On arrival, as we've found in talking to others who came with those who drowned, people want to swim. Unless they are told once, twice, three times that it is not safe, they may not pause to read a brochure.


The idea was to inform people where it is safe to swim - or is the whole beach dangerous?

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on January 15, 2011 18:14

Editor Comment:

The ''rips'' tend to move depending on what's happening under the water. Conditions at the beach vary from day to day. It's certainly unusual to have such dangerous seas at this time of the year.


I've stayed at that beach during the low season when it is windy and the surf can be rough. But the red flags were flying the whole time - even on days when it was quite calm, and there was no danger due to surf and currents. People soon learn to disregard such flags. They should only be flown when there are rough conditions, and then need to be backed up by lifeguards warning people.

Posted by Naiharn on January 18, 2011 13:47

Monday September 25, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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