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A lifeguard struggles to get swimmers to leave the water at Karon after a drowning

Phuket's Killer Beach Claims British Tourist

Monday, June 14, 2010

The woman who drowned at Karon has been identified as Briton Rebecca Callaghan, 21, who was on Karon beach with newly-arrived American friends. Earlier reports identified her as American. British honorary consul Martin Carpenter today called for campaigns among resorts and the media on Phuket every year between April and November to warn tourists of the potential dangers of swimming at some beaches.

Original Report

AN AMERICAN woman has drowned in the surf at Karon on the first day of her holiday, restoring the beach's reputation as a killer during the monsoon season on Phuket.

Another tourist is in intensive care at Bangkok Hospital Phuket. A spate of rescues took place around the same time at three different Phuket beaches on Saturday.

The American woman, aged 20, hired surf boards with her boyfriend at Karon despite a warning from a lifeguard that the sea was unsafe.

Phuketwan has been told a nurse, a tourist on the beach, helped to perform cardio resuscitation, but the effort was in vain and the woman died in Patong Hospital.

A second tourist, a Korean man, was pulled from the water in an incident at Kata beach. Two other swimmers, Thai teenagers Chaiyaphum Boonrasri, 16, and Knitaani Hursuachet, 15, were taken to hospitals after being rescued from the surf at Nai Harn.

All of the incidents came around 5pm on Saturday. A planetary alignment may have helped to strengthen undersea ''rips,'' which were particularly bad at Phuket's beaches at low tide.

Several drownings occurred at Karon last monsoon season. As a testimony to Karon's treachery, Lonely Planet listed the Phuket beach among the Top 10 stretches of sand in the world for families.

Even with red flags placed along beaches, Thais and expat tourists continue to try to enjoy their ''summer holidays'' on Phuket by swimming in the sea, despite the dangers.

Phuketwan was at Karon last year and witnessed a lifeguard struggling to warn tourists who insisted on swimming at the spot where a Russian tourist had drowned just hours earlier.

Lifesaving chief Prathayut ''Nut'' Cheryon said today that Saturday's low tide had brought with it an exceptionally strong rip.

''People really shouldn't go in the water when conditions are so dangerous,'' he said.

If drownings continue, authorities will have no choice except to ban swimming at some beaches during the monsoon season.

A US disaster and safety expert recently recommended adding a warning about the potential for tsunamis to the Phuket promotional videos shown to tourists as their flights descend towards Phuket International Airport.

Another 10 seconds on the video would also alert them all to the dangers of swimming at Phuket's beaches during the monsoon season.

Lifesaving Courses
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort is scheduled to host a series of rigorous surf and lifesaving training sessions in June and July. A five-day Basic to Intermediate Course will be held from July 5-9. Advanced programs and re-certification for bronze and gold medallion standard courses will take place from June 28-30, with another on July 12-14. To assist in elevating the general level of water safety on Phuket, the resort has opened these previously exclusive training sessions to the public.
Sessions are conducted and supervised by David Field, a water safety expert from Australia. Mr. Field has over 20 years' experience in lifesaving and is an assessor for Surf Life Saving Australia.
All training sessions are open to the public with a fee of 4000 baht per participant. Lifeguards working for hotels, public pools, sports clubs and all other interested individuals are encouraged to enroll through Benyathip Pattaraworawisit at
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Something to read:

Posted by Jamie Monk on June 14, 2010 14:27


Increasing awareness is key, but at a certain point, these things will happen when you mix people who can't swim and rough water, no matter what you do. At least we have the lifeguards now which are surely saving lives. Banning swimming may be the answer, but how is that different than a using red flags? Red flags already means you are banned from swimming. Are they talking about not letting people even on the sand?

The bit about the planetary alignment contributing to the rips needs correcting. Planets have no noticeable effect on earths tides, and certainly not it beach rips. (A rip tide is not actually a tide at all, but part of normal wave action)

"Gravity depends on two things: the mass of the object pulling on you, and its distance. The more mass something has, the stronger it pulls, and the farther away it is, the weaker it pulls. She strength depends on the square of the distance. If you double the distance, the force of gravity drops by 2 x 2 = 4. If you put something ten times farther away, the gravitational force drops by 10 x 10 = 100. You can see that gravity gets weak pretty quickly with distance."

Using these numbers we see that based on their mass and distance, the two planets having the greatest gravitational effect on Earth, Jupitar and Venus only have a .0006% and .005% of an effect on the tides as our moon does. This is also why this weekends panic about earthquakes and tsunami's being reported in Thai media is completely baseless.

Editor: Sure, but the Moon plus planets in alignment makes for a more powerful force than the Moon alone.

Posted by ScubaBuddha on June 14, 2010 17:40


God you people use your heads did you ever hear of Australia banning swimming.

Yes its dangerous you can die so quickly you will never know what happened if your not careful .

I have surfed here for 30 years.

Definitely we have needed proper lifeguards here for years we are not in the ball park as for guarding as seen on Aussie beaches.

Over the years I have saved a few lives and brought in many bodies.

Posted by Brian on June 14, 2010 21:55


"The American [we now know she was British] woman, aged 20, hired surf boards with her boyfriend at Karon despite a warning from a lifeguard that the sea was unsafe."

Why did the lifeguard allow her to go into the water if the sea was unsafe?

Editor: Lifeguards don't have the authority to physically restrain people from going into the water. Language is sometimes an additional problem. The red flags are often ignored, which is why closing some beaches on dangerous days may become the solution. People mistakenly believe the beaches are safe all year. Insufficient warnings are provided by authorities, and by resorts and guesthouses.

Posted by Anonymous on June 14, 2010 22:48


I agree this can't be pinned on the lifeguards. Some people will not listen, no matter what a lifeguard tries to tell them.

That said I'd dare to say that the major obstacle in tackling this problem is a conflict of interest.

Though everyone agrees warnings and information would save lives, some with financial interests in the business believe that warnings about Phuket beaches being lethally dangerous would scare away tourists.

Hence they choose to be silent and let people drown - and drown they do, every year.

Posted by Amazing Thailand on June 15, 2010 18:21


It is so easy for all you ignorant so-and-sos to make a comment when it means nothing to you. My little brother drowned here last year aged 21, he had no warnings what so ever, he even asked his reps at the hotel whether it was safe to swim and he was told yes.

The lifeguards would not go in to help and the police even put a red flag up after it happened...There are people who are covering this up...if it was in a civilised country these beaches would have been closed a long time ago........we don't have these tragic stories happening year after year anywhere else. at least 36 people died on Karon beach last year that's not right!!!!!!! and it looks as though it's all starting for a new year....

Editor: I don't know where you got that figure from Tom but it's much, much higher than any figure we've seen. Your brother's case was certainly tragic and helped to focus attention on the issue. But with a long stretch of beach and a handful of lifeguards . . . it's an unequal task.

Posted by Tom Patton on June 16, 2010 01:03


I have added information onto my weather blog about the risks.. - I love Phuket in the low season personally, but if I want a swim I will not be heading to Karon beach. Loss of life is very sad especially if lives can be saved with a little effort on eveyone's part to make sure visitors are aware of the potential dangers of swimming in rough waters and the risk of rip currents and what to do if you are caught in one.

Posted by Jamie Monk on June 16, 2010 14:41


So why are surfboards being rented when red flags are out?
There seems to be a real disconnect in Thai authority's ability to enforce safety regulations, this is what tourists should be warned of.
Incidentally, the half yellow/red flag means...,er, what?

btw; The planetary alignment of June 13 did not include the moon, at least not the earth's. In fact, the earth was not within the alignment either.

Posted by Christy S on June 17, 2010 09:25


Suicide Beach closed for business.
That's what it takes to get the message across, you cannot rely on the fact that every tourist is well informed enough to make a rational decision.

Posted by Peter Jones on June 19, 2010 19:49


I got my information from a reliable source not that it makes a difference........Even if it is not exact there are many, many people dying here each year and nothing is done...that is wrong......

I would do anything to have the power to warn people of the danger but it seems an impossible task when nobody is interested.....I wish I could stop the pain that is going the way of these poor families who have to pick up the pieces......

As long as Thailand is making money from tourists hey, who cares, it's only innocent lives.......

Editor: Tom, Some progress is being made but there's certainly a lot more work to be done. Closing some beaches may be the only answer on days when the rips are deadly. In any event, the authorities have to provide a comprehensive warning system. We certainly don't want to keep reporting needless deaths every monsoon season. I will never forget the day that the lifeless body of a drowned 10-year-old boy was wheeled past me, in to a hospital. These tragic losses must cease.

Posted by Tom Patton on June 23, 2010 19:42

Monday October 2, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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