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The body of the man was found on Karon beach, near the Centara Grand site

Tourist's Body Found; He Was a Lifeguard. Phuket Beach Bosses in Crisis Talks

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
UPDATE

Bahrainian Embassy officials expect the drowned man's mother and father to arrive on Phuket today. The man was a lifeguard in Bahrain, Phuketwan has been told.

Original Report

THE BODY of a Phuket tourist who went missing at Karon beach on Sunday was found at 7am today, about 1.5 kilometres from where he disappeared, at the northern end of the beach.

Bahraini Embassy officials have been informed and are awaiting formal identification of the man, named by lifeguards as Ali Abdulaziz Salman Alsaeed, 24.

Two tourists drowned on Phuket on Sunday afternoon in an alarming double-tragedy that raised more questions about the safety of the island's beaches during the April-October monsoon season.

One Chinese envoy has since expressed concern about the number of visitors from China who drown on Phuket each year.

The body of the second tourist, Zhao Dakun, 47, who drowned at neighboring Kata beach almost at the same time, is to be cremated on Phuket once the man's relatives arrive from China. The man's wife, holidaying with him on Phuket, made the decision to cremate his body.

An emergency meeting was called yesterday, bringing together officials from Phuket's most popular beach destinations of Karon-Kata and Patong with the Lifeguard Club, the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, which funds the lifeguard service, and local ambulance representatives.

Coverage in the Thai media emphasising the lack of priorities and speed of the local ambulance was the reason for the meeting, which went on to discuss the high number of drownings and possible solutions.

The lifeguard spokesperson recommended switching the ambulance now stationed at Chalong Pier, on Phuket's east coast, to Karon, on the west coast, in the hope of speeding reaction times.

The existing west coast ambulance is not on duty around-the-clock and if there are two emergency calls about the same time, it can only respond to one.

One Thai newspaper outlet this week accused the existing ambulance of picking up less seriously hurt people from the scene of a road crash and fire on Karon Hill in which 15 people were burned.

On the drownings, discussion took place about whether brochures being available at resorts would prevent more tragedies. The lifeguards have said they need help to cope and resorts should warn guests about the monsoon dangers.

Today China's deputy honorary consul for the southern region of Thailand, Qin Jian, told Phuketwan that four or five people among about 100,000 visitors from China to Phuket drowned each year.

''It may be in the sea or in swimming pools,'' he said. ''This is too many. Resorts must give sufficient information to make sure the tourists are not in danger and get home safely. Lifeguards are essential, at pools and on the beaches.''

While some tourists drown because they cannot swim, others are overwhelmed by large waves or unable to resist the ''rip'' currents that pull them out to sea during the monsoon season at several popular beaches.

Some resorts already have adequate warnings and safeguards in place. One resort manager has gone so far as to tell his guests between April and October: ''If you want to stay alive, swim in the resort pool, not at the beach.''

Other resorts deny any responsibility for the safety of guests beyond their premises. Yet if drownings continue, Phuket's reputation as a year-round holiday destination is likely to be tarnished.

In 2009, there were 57 drownings in the waters of Phuket. This compares with the 153 deaths on Phuket's roads, highlighting the disproportionate danger in the water.

So far this year, there have been 25 drownings to the end of July. Local sources say there have been three drownings at Karon and one at Kata since lifeguards returned to the island's beaches in April.
Phuket Double Drowning Raises Alarm About Resort Safety
PHOTO ALBUM Double drownings at the neighboring Phuket beaches of Karon and Kata underscore the tragic point that resorts must become involved in water awareness and safety immediately.
Phuket Double Drowning Raises Alarm About Resort Safety

Phuket Day of Beach Tragedies: One Tourist Drowns, Another is Missing, Feared Dead
Breaking News A tourist from Bahrain is missing off Karon beach and a second tourist from China has died in hospital after a separate incident at neighboring Kata beach.
Phuket Day of Beach Tragedies: One Tourist Drowns, Another is Missing, Feared Dead

Phuket Mass Rescue Saves Six From Drowning
Latest Lifesavers and locals on Nai Harn beach combined to save six children who swam into difficulties while on a picnic. Two students required treatment at Vachira Hospital in Phuket City.
Phuket Mass Rescue Saves Six From Drowning

Phuket Lifeguards Save Expat, Thai Swimmers
News Analysis Newly recorded figures show which Phuket beaches have the most number of near drowning incidents, along with jellyfish stings and mishaps involving speedboats and jetskis.
Phuket Lifeguards Save Expat, Thai Swimmers

Phuket Drownings: How Life Ebbs Away on Karon Beach
Latest Lifeguards from Phuket's Karon beach are frustrated and upset that many local resorts fail to warn tourists of potential dangers that continue to cost lives needlessly.
Phuket Drownings: How Life Ebbs Away on Karon Beach

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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SO what were the ambulance response times and what first aid WAS administered on the beach? Was CPR administered? As police are often on the scene first I hope they are trained in First Aid.

So on this holiday resort island there is only one local ambulance for all of Chalong, Rawai, Nai Harn, Kata Noi, Kata and Karon????????

Is this the Ambulance from the fire department on Koktanode Road?

Perhaps a couple of designated emergency tuk tuks would put them to good use!

Posted by VFaye on August 10, 2010 11:04

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Volunteer foreigners appear to turn out for the drunken night crowd and to help out at Immigration, how about doing the same thing for the beaches since foreigners would be more than willing to tell people to get the %$^& out of the dangerous surf. Give them a uniform and a whistle and I am sure you can find volunteers.

Posted by mike on August 10, 2010 12:44

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"Yet if drownings continue, Phuket's reputation as a year-round holiday destination is likely to be tarnished."

when was the last time anyone checked drowning statistics before booking a holiday?? really? be honest!!

Posted by another steve on August 10, 2010 12:46

Editor Comment:

You'd be surprised. Discerning holidaymakers do their research thoroughly these days.

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..or tuk tuk prices for that matter!!

Posted by another steve on August 10, 2010 12:47

Editor Comment:

An excessive tuk-tuk fare is not a life or death issue but the trend is for more travellers to do their research thoroughly these days.

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When was Phuket a "year-round" holiday destination? (I don't really know, just asking the question.) But it seems that advertising Phuket in low season, as the ""summer season" has put a few people off. Does TAT advertise anything about the beaches here??? Or is that pushed onto the hotels and airlines to take care of that? Can people booking for this time frame receive info accurate on the sea conditions?

Posted by Lee on August 10, 2010 13:52

Editor Comment:

Large numbers of tourists visit Phuket every month of the year. As far as we can tell, they always have, ever since Phuket became a beach destination. Numbers are lower between April and October, during the monsoon/wet/rainy/green/summer season. As a marketing organisation, the Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes Phuket and its attractions all year round. Officials at the TAT would be horrified at the drownings. Advertising the virtues of the beaches is not the problem: awareness is the problem. Tourists need to be told from the moment they arrive that some beaches can be dangerous at this time of the year. That message needs to be repeated two or three times. People who have been enticed to come on a beach holiday are going to want to swim.

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Dear Ali, rest in peace, we will miss you a lot. My condolences to his family. He was a lovely and true friend.

Posted by Khalil on August 10, 2010 14:09

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He Is From Bahrain :(

Posted by Bahrain on August 10, 2010 14:27

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Dear brother Ali, you remain in the heart even if you have left us with your body. We ask God to accommodate you in Gardens of Delight. My condolences to your family, to your friends, to all Bahraini people.

Posted by Nuha Um Alaa on August 10, 2010 16:36

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Does anyone tell TAT of the drownings??? Since they would be horrified!

As a marketing organization, the: "Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes Phuket and its attractions all year round. Officials at the TAT would be horrified at the drownings. Advertising the virtues of the beaches is not the problem: awareness is the problem"

But the drownings at the beaches is the problem. It falls into to profiles, those that ignore the warnings of the life guards, and those that do get that warning.

So TAT is not at fault, but everybody else is? The airlines, the hotels, the resorts, everyone except the TAT for advertising this is a "summer destination? Virtues of the beaches?.

So why are you advertising this is the place to come to in the "summer" months, but they cannot swim?

Posted by Lee on August 10, 2010 18:09

Editor Comment:

Do you have any evidence that the TAT is promoting Phuket as a ''summer'' destination? The impression I have is that they steered well clear of ''summer'' and persevered with the ''green season'' tag. In any case, the TAT can't be blamed for deaths at the beaches any more than it can be blamed for the road toll or the garbage mountain. Why not stop looking for people to blame, and try looking for a solution instead? All Phuket resorts benefit from year-round tourism and all resorts should play a part in a ''coordinated solution'' to beach safety.

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Dear brother Ali, rest in peace

Posted by Nada Taha on August 10, 2010 18:16

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I saw a chap being treated for drowning at Phi Phi hospital yesterday. I have my doubts he survived. Happened while snorkeling. His wife was with him.....their honeymoon.

He was taken from Phi Phi by speed boat, don't know where to. About midday.

Any news on this?

Posted by Mark on August 11, 2010 10:57

Editor Comment:

Do you know which country they were from? Any more details?

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So the tides took the life of a trained lifeguard and apparent sports fanatic. In other words, probably the hardest victim to take.

Doesn't that sort of indicate that NO swimming in the sea should be allowed when the red flags are out? Its not just your own life you endanger by swimming, its the poor lifeguards lives as well when they have to fish you out.

Just give the Lifeguards the powers to walk up and down the beach and when they see tourists they just tell them no swimming as the red flags are out...or they will be escorted off the beach, back to their hotel, and then to an ATM to pay a fine. Fines go towards paying for training and equipment.

Another idea. Get the police to do a walk down the beaches and find all the "unregistered" jetbikes. Seize them and turn them over to the guards who can respray 'em red or orange and use them. That kicks the m**** in the teeth, and helps ensure tourist and lifeguard safety.

The "no swimming or we kick you off the beach and fine you" idea would be a start, tho.

Posted by Sandman on August 11, 2010 13:09

Editor Comment:

Perhaps the first concept is a bit heavy-handed for a destination with a need to encourage tourism. Who does the ''arresting'' of holidaymakers? What probably needs to be tried first is a thorough system of no-holds-barred warnings. It's certainly true that being a good swimmer is no guarantee that you can survive a red-flag day on Phuket. It's also certainly true that it's unfair to expect lifeguards to risk their lives just because someone hasn't been properly warned. If it comes to closing beaches on wild days, then that should be considered. The jet-ski idea makes sense to me. I wonder if the governor would approve it.

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"Do you have any evidence that the TAT is promoting Phuket as a ''summer'' destination? The impression I have is that they steered well clear of ''summer'' and persevered with the ''green season'' tag. In any case, the TAT can't be blamed for deaths at the beaches any more than it can be blamed for the road toll or the garbage mountain."

Sorry, all I have heard is summer season, not green season. I am not blaming the deaths on TAT, more explained below.

"Why not stop looking for people to blame, and try looking for a solution instead?"

The solution is easy, the western beaches are dangerous, but tourism numbers are what counts, and their money, nothing more. Solution: Close the beaches; end result, less tourists in Phuket, that is no good for money.

"All Phuket resorts benefit from year-round tourism and all resorts should play a part in a ''coordinated solution'' to beach safety."

But you don't mention TAT doing anything, since that would reduce the tourists? Tourist should be warned of this BEFORE not during the plane landing and many times during their stay, warned before even coming here. Again, money first.

Your words are correct, but you were pushing for airlines to aware tourists of the sea conditions, what I am stating is why can't the TAT do this through there promotion of the island? But that would lead to less tourists??? What about the resorts that are not on the beach?

Resorts (beach) should certainly inform tourists of the sea conditions, that is a no brainer. (Fines come into mind, but again, too easy to figure out.)

I provided a solution, close the beaches during a rip, how easy is that? I am not Thai, but they (Thais) want the money.

See if the Thais email you with a solution, they want nothing but the money.

Posted by Lee on August 11, 2010 15:16

Editor Comment:

It is fantasyland stuff to expect tour agents or marketing organisations to advertise the negatives of any destination. What is Indonesia's equivalent of the TAT doing to warn tourists about the rabies outbreak on Bali? Your concept is like training soldiers to kill and hand out flowers every Sunday. And I see now you view it as a Thai problem . . . and you talk about Thais as though all Thais are alike. For a minute there, I thought you were an intelligent, rational being. Please don't waste my time.

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"It is fantasyland stuff to expect tour agents or marketing organisations to advertise the negatives of any destination."

But would it work to keep people from dying??? Why say come for the beaches, rather say come for the people, the food, the culture, the history.

"What is Indonesia's equivalent of the TAT doing to warn tourists about the rabies outbreak on Bali?"

Not sure, I am not following Bali since I live in Phuket.

"Your concept is like training soldiers to kill and hand out flowers every Sunday."

No, the concept is to tell tourists the beaches are not safe, what is so hard about that?


"And I see now you view it as a Thai problem . . . and you talk about Thais as though all Thais are alike. For a minute there, I thought you were an intelligent, rational being. Please don't waste my time."

This is Thailand, correct, is this not a Thai problem? Hotels not telling tourists of the dangers, beach staff not telling tourists of the flag meanings, so this has to rely on the westerners telling them (tourists)?

Posted by Lee on August 11, 2010 16:28

Editor Comment:

People mostly come to Phuket for beach holidays. The TAT promotes other aspects of the island but the beach holiday is what brings most visitors. To not promote Phuket's biggest attribute (along with the coral reefs) would be bizarre.

As you will have seen from the news reports, people from all over have drowned, including Thais. Your emphasis on ''westerners'' is misguided and of no relevance.

I'd prefer to see what others have to say, rather than batting balls back and forth to no avail.

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The answer is to build an artificial surfing reef along Karon. This will make swimming much safer, help to preserve the beach by reducing erosion, and create waves with a good shape for surfing there, thus giving a legitimate reason to attract tourists to the beach during the monsoon season. If they actually did this and created some good waves, Phuket could become a serious surfing destination.

The same would work at Kata, too. Surfers are also probably the main reason there are not so many drownings at Kata, too. I know this as I've pulled a lady from the water myself while surfing and heard lots of other accounts of the same thing. Of course then we would just have to deal with the problem of extra charge for surf boards in tuk tuks lol. Remember you heard it here first!

Posted by Chalongian on August 11, 2010 17:19

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If this chap was a lifeguard he should know what the red flags mean.

Posted by Antz Pantz on August 11, 2010 22:40

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We all phuketians have heard all this danger of the sea in this season for many generations. Only stubborn and young tourists die. No one can rescue them from this season's sea. Human being..... you just never listen.

Posted by Anonymous on August 12, 2010 04:18

Editor Comment:

Perhaps it's time that seasoned Phuketians passed on their knowledge and experience to young Phuketians and temporary Phuketians. Watching someone drown is not something most Phuketians want to see or hear.

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Whichever way you look at it or whomever you are trying to blame, the figures are horrendous.
For last year (2009) the total drownings in Australia was 302, 50 higher than the previous year. This has created alarm as the death rate has been falling over the past decade. Of that number 67 were beach related (5% of those were trying to rescue someone else) and 102 involved rivers, dams, lagoons etc.
To have 57 people drown in the waters off Phuket alone is really unacceptable. I have included the rivers total above because I've just read that on average 2,600 Thais drown in rivers, ditches and lakes each year as well which is equally unacceptable.
The Australian Royal Life Saving Society is pushing for increased education in schools and at an earlier age to redress this. They are even sponsoring projects in Thailand to slow down the rate among Thai children (the majority of those who drown in klongs, rivers, etc).
Unfortunately, education takes time but it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later or the drownings will continue to increase.

Posted by andyman on August 12, 2010 13:07

Editor Comment:

Yes. Some action, including provision of an effective warning system, needs to be taken immediately to produce immediate results. Longer-term, teaching local people to swim is essential, too. The Phuket figure includes deaths at sea and deaths in swimming pools and canals, but given the comparison with the island-continent of Australia, one million people versus 20 million people, Phuket's drowning toll is far too high.

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This may not necessarily be acceptable to the families involved but how's this for an idea.
On the warning signs placed along the beaches include pictures of those who've drowned during the current season at that particular stretch of beach with the appropriate warnings about conditions, red flag meaning, etc.
There is little more confronting than seeing someone who might look like you who has recently passed away at this very spot.
Another short-term solution maybe to have one staff member at each hotel hand out a flyer to each guest leaving the resort for the beach (an indication of this maybe to target the ones carrying towels and wearing swimming gear) on red flag days outlining the dangers. This may even allow one or two staff to retain their job during the low season.

Posted by andyman on August 12, 2010 13:43

Editor Comment:

Beach holidays are not going to be enhanced by the knowledge that X number of people have drowned just where you want to swim, any more than aircraft carry notches for the number of passengers that particular brand has lost in crashes along the way. The point you make about resort staff having more time to warn guests during the monsoon season, though, is a good one. There is no reason why guests should not be warned at every opportunity.

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I have just been to Surin beach and the municipality has got warning signs up explaining the warning flags. Well done to them, I hope it can save lives. Alas I still saw people swimming and a jet ski in the background. Maybe the jetski was a life guard on duty?

Stay safe everyone.

Posted by Graham on August 12, 2010 18:57

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One drowning every week on Phuket !
Now that is news. Who would take their family on holiday there if they knew this ?

Posted by Anonymous on August 18, 2010 03:51

Editor Comment:

The total is for all drownings, so it includes fishermen falling off trawlers and people who are unfortunate enough to fall into canals as well. Beach drownings make up a portion of the deaths, but the Public Health figures supplied to us do not differentiate between beach deaths and deaths of other kinds.

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I was on the beach the day the man from China drowned. The next day in same circumstances the lifeguards were furiously blowing whistles at a young man and woman swimming right in front of the red flags. They blatantly ignored him.

What hope have these poor guys got in this exasperating job? More strong armed tactics are needed. Perhaps more official looking police type people for support would help. God help these stupid idiots that think they can survive when a lifesaver himself drowned!!!

Posted by Christine on August 18, 2010 22:16

Editor Comment:

Frequent warnings at every opportunity would help - especially at the resorts. It's human nature to expect to enjoy the beach holiday you paid to enjoy. Some resorts are pleased to have guests in the monsoon season but reluctant to do the right thing and tell them the truth about the dangers. If deaths continue, these resorts deserve to be named and shamed.

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I nearly drowned last "summer season" while playing in the water on a Phuket beach. I wasn't even swimming, I was simply standing in the water at waist height and letting the surf crash on me. Suddenly, I was yanked off my feet and was being pulled out to sea. I swam with all my strength and couldn't get back to the beach.

A Thai jet-ski boy came to my rescue at the last minute. I have since found out that it is the wrong thing to do to fight the current. There were no red flags there...I wouldn't have even known what a red flag meant. If I had known how dangerous it was I never would have gone in the water.

Don't rely on just resort hotels to inform people...there were no resort hotels where I got into trouble. Lifeguards need to be very aggressive with people and need to tell them specifically what the danger is.

Posted by ShawnS on August 21, 2010 13:13


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