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Big loss: Jason and Leanne O'Leary with Kellan, 8, and Nathan, 6

Ferry Disaster Family Lost Everything

Monday, April 13, 2015
PHUKET: Survivors of the burning and sinking of a Krabi to Phuket ferry last week may never be compensated for luggage or personal belongings lost in the disaster.

Ao Nang Travel and Tour Co, owners of the Ao Nang Princess 5, aim to pursue insurers for the money, a spokesperson said yesterday. The company did not hold comprehensive insurance.

Travellers who lost all their possessions when the ferry went to the bottom have received only 3000 baht per person in ''pocketmoney''. Some were left in just their swimming clothes.

The burning and sinking killed Israeli Shani Maril, 12, who had gone to the toilet near the engine room.The fire broke out in the engine room about 3.30pm on Wednesday.

Before flying out last night with his family to Switzerland, where he lives and works as a hockey coach, Canadian Jason O'Leary told Phuketwan that he was concerned scores of passengers would never be compensated.

''It really is unfortunate this has happened. the kids were really, really upset,'' Mr O'Leary said. Mr O'Leary, 36, and his wife Leanne, 34, have two boys, Kellan, 8, and Nolan, 6.

''After everything happened, they transported us in small vans and the couple next to us in the van were talking about it. It was so surreal.

''One of my boys said 'What would have happened if we had wanted to go to the bathroom? It could have been us.' It's really scary.

''When everything first happened, I thought, a lot of time commotion causes panic. We saw smoke, and then as soon as we saw the smoke we started to move.

''I thought it might have been something like an electric fire, a plug of some sort. I though 'Oh they'll get a fire extinguisher, phtttt, no problem.'

''At first there was a small bang, then smoke, then a much larger bang. Then the black smoke started. Then people were screaming . . . the really frustrating part was there were no kids' life jackets.

''When my son put on a jacket it was down to his ankles. And that's what scared us. Then we put the straps through the bottom, they didn't stay clipped.

''We were in the second-last row from the back. People were just running to the front, running up the stairs. The staff were gone.

''We started moving up the front. On those boats, there's only two exits, the stem and the stern. Windows were open on either side, so we climbed out the side.

''We climbed along the edge and two Australian girls took my sons and boosted them up to the upper part, along with my wife. I saw one lady go overboard then there was more screaming.

''I remember watching the guy with a baby-blue fire extinguisher, then he threw it in the water.

''I remember asking 'Do we have to jump here?' But there wasn't a lot of English being spoken.

''Then a window burst out and you could see the flames. My boys were already crying and screaming. We jumped. My wife and I got separated.

''I remember yelling and swearing. Eventually everyone got off, except the young Israeli girl. The last one off was a large British man, who told me later he couldn't swim.

''I remember asking my wife 'Do we have our passports?' She had them in a zip purse. We were in the water for about 30 minutes.

''The first boat came and took maybe 30 or 40 people. My son and I were pretty close. We were wanting to get on but someone said 'We can't take any more.'

''We waited and went back to the group, and the second speedboat came maybe 10 minutes later. It was a little nerve-wracking.''

Mr O'Leary met with the ferry company at Phuket airport a day or so ago. He was told that the company had coverage up to one million dollars for death or injury.

The boat itself was fully insured. But the possessions of passengers were not insured.

''We had everything we came with in our baggage - cellphones, iPads for the kids, a GoPro camera, presents to take home for friends . . . had I known there was no insurance I could have heaved our bags over the side and hoped they would float.''

While the family's passports survived, they were badly water-damaged and will have to be replaced quickly.

The family were relying on a police statement and the water-damaged passports to get through Immigration at Phuket International Airport last night.

Leanne: ''We had to add everything up and the total came to about $10,000. We lost jewellery, watches, shoes . . . it was unbelievable how fast the flames spread and how fast the ferry went down.

''We didn't know whether credit cards would work. We tried to exchange one $20 bill but it was still wet. The woman at the currency exchange in Jungceylon wouldn't take it.''

Mr O'Leary said he tried all the available numbers for the Canadian Embassy but could not raise anyone on the first day. After that, envoys and especially Phuket police had been extremely helpful.

Now the family want to have the cash as soon as possible to replace their possessions. The tragedy and lack of reimbursement so far reflects poorly on Thailand and its approach to tourism.

''They must know if someone was a day-tripper or a one-way ferry transfer. We lost as much as the rest of the holiday cost us in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

''Because of how it happened, they want to wait and see what's covered. My police report is all in Thai. I will have to pay to get that translated.

''Four passports have to be replaced. That's $800 to get the passports replaced. All of a sudden, it's a $15,000 replacement for what we've lost.

''I want to find out. When we leave . . . all they have is my email address. They don't have to get in touch with us ever again.

''I went to the airport to make sure we could fly tonight. I would really like them to replace our items.''

Leanne: ''Our kids couldn't sleep for the first night. They were scared. We want to try to forget and move on. It's different when you have kids, I think.''

Jason: ''We would be an average case. The family of the Israeli girl was sitting right beside us in the speedboat. For 30 minutes, the girl's mother was just screaming. 'My daughter, I can't bury my daughter.' And my kids were like . . .''

The embassies are likely to be left as go-betweens with the company and the ferry survivors. It's known that 17 people lost their passports.

The company has met the expenses of those passengers who have had to travel to Bangkok to regain passports, and of others who have been forced to wait in Thailand until after Songkran.

''And then we leave,'' Mr O'Leary said. ''Once we are all gone and nobody's here . . . ''

The 117 survivors came from at least 12 countries.

Leanne: ''Tickets for the two-hour trip were 750 baht for us and 650 baht each for the kids. It wasn't cheap. You would think for that price standards should be high.

''It's hard to imagine how they could not be insured.''

Jason: ''If the company has been running for 20 years, with no incidents, your insurance company should be happy with you. At those prices, the company has made a lot of money.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


3000 Bath for what? this people (company) make millions off Bath every week or day.

Posted by Bjorn Ronningen on April 13, 2015 17:57


Was there an article saying they were insured?

Posted by Welcome To Paradise on April 13, 2015 18:36

Editor Comment:

It may be that the company did not read the fine print until it was necessary . . . something perhaps that the insurance company failed to mention.


So much for the spokesperson's previous statement.

"The vessel was fully insured and the owner is keen to compensate anyone for out-of-pocket expenses involved in getting their new passports."

So what he actually meant is that all 117 passengers and crew shouldn't worry about the loss of our ferry because it was insured and we will get a new one. Hopefully all you tourists return home soon so we don't have to deal with all your losses but in the meantime we will continue to pretend that we actually give a sh#t.

Anyone passengers want a half price trip on our new ferry next time they visit.?

Posted by Manowar on April 13, 2015 18:52

Editor Comment:

Making assumptions is foolish, Manowar. Spokespeople can be female. And spokespeople can assume the insurance is comprehensive before reading the small print. Sadly, 3000 baht hardly does a lot apart from give you a new set of clothes to wear. ''Pocketmoney'' is about right. As the fare was 750 baht for adults, the company's 2250 baht extra refund was a token effort. Their generosity covered out-of-pocket expenses but has really has yet to be proven. The Thai authorities must quickly sort out who is responsible and who should replace the passengers' luggage. Our advice to the ferry company would be to (a) save your reputation and Thailand's reputation by making sure the passengers are fully recompensed by you or your insurance company then (b) pay more for a more comprehensive insurance policy in future.


...never rely on carer's insurance, spend on your own

carers, except for global companies , who have sizeable value in their brand and reputation, often will not provide immediate relief
local company just will change name, repainted the rest of the fleet and that is.l

normally "authorities" should at such hot tourist destination take coercive measure toward operatirs that they have adequate emergency plans, backed with resources - but, as Pete once mentioned, most of them are "inactive posts"..

Posted by Sue on April 13, 2015 18:53


Jason: ''If the company has been running for 20 years, with no incidents, your insurance company should be happy with you.'

What gave Jason the impression that there had been no incidents? Ferries coming to grief in one way or another on the runs in this area are not a rare occurrence. Insurance companies know what to insure and what not to insure. That's how they stay in business. I'd say personal belongings of passengers wouldn't fall into the insurable category.

Posted by Jogo on April 13, 2015 19:10


The Thai government should reduce the too strong competition for commissions between tour providers, tour operators and touts as all tour boat operators have to give them up to 50% even more in case of large tour groups about commissions to get enough customers to pay yearly expenses.

How do you want tour boat operators are able to be up to international standards with expensive costs of boat operating if all profits are sucked by touts and travel agents up to 50% even more in case of large groups?

Also, they are only one governmental Marine Training Center in Thailand and none in the Andaman Sea and all boat crews in the Andaman Sea get their helmsman driving license by paying a fee and some unbilled services.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on April 13, 2015 19:13


A couple of years ago, a ferry disaster occurred in Pattaya and the government swore changes would occur in regards to ferries. Obviously that was an empty promise.

Posted by Traveler on April 13, 2015 21:44


Surely he had some kind of travel insurance that will cover everything? Even some cc's have that. He seems more concerned about losing the material things instead of grateful for him and his family being alive!
knowing the standards of boats and lack of regulation he is REALLY lucky he came out unscathed minus a few iPads for the kids!

Posted by Vfaye on April 13, 2015 21:55

Editor Comment:

I am not sure how much more grateful you expect survivors to be, Vfaye. But I would expect most readers consider the O'Learys to be innocent victims of chance. Given the income from tourism, was the ferry well maintained? Was the crew capable of fighting an on-board fire? These are the serious questions raised by this tragedy.


have to agree with Vfaye.. he needs to be calling his main holiday insurer for loss of belongings (and everything else for that matter) not looking to the ferry company.. thankfully all of his family survived..

Posted by another steve on April 14, 2015 08:29

Editor Comment:

That makes two readers who can't see the real issue - the safety of tourists. The money is, as Vfaye notes, not so important.


People love to come and live in Thailand because the laws are so relaxed, but when a disaster happens that's when trouble happens.

Those of us who live here understand how things work here.

The tourists should not have to suffer. The government needs to reinforce all laws that provide tourists with Wester Standards.

Insurance for all things which involve tourists should be compulsory and fully comprehensive.

Personally, this should be done no matter if you're a tourist or not.

Posted by Tbs on April 14, 2015 09:56


Another example of Thailand taking and not facing responsibility and giving back what is due. Remember a 12 years old girl lost her life in this tragedy! Some of these companies make fortunes and are not short of money.

Posted by Welcome To Paradise on April 14, 2015 10:58

Editor Comment:

The insurance does cover death and injury.


Ed, "The insurance does not cover death and injury" - well shame on them! (moderated)

Posted by Welcome To Paradise on April 14, 2015 16:08

Editor Comment:

Do you have a reading problem? My response clearly says: ''The insurance does cover death and injury.'' Not much point WtP in reading PW if you imagine words that aren't there.

The article also says: ''Mr O'Leary met with the ferry company at Phuket airport a day or so ago. He was told that the company had coverage up to one million dollars for death or injury. ''

The boat itself was fully insured. But the possessions of passengers were not insured.


'Injury' could be defined as any violation of rights or property of another for which damages may be sought


a wrong or injustice done or suffered

Posted by Manowar on April 14, 2015 16:53

Editor Comment:

In legalspeak, yes. We'd rather stick with principles.


Alan, I certainly agree with the principle. I was just suggesting that whatever level of insurance they held should have no affect on their responsibility to compensate those who incurred a loss as 'injury' is not limited to a person's physical damage.
The purpose of insurance and choice of cover is determined by the policy holder based on what they see as a potential risk. This protects the policy holder from claims, however, without adequate insurance the same claim still exists with the ferry owner liable for potential uninsured risks or claims for losses.

Posted by Manowar on April 14, 2015 21:56

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