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A Russian, wearing black shorts, drowned at Phuket's Karon beach today

Russian Ignores Red Flag Warnings, Drowns at Phuket's Karon Beach

Monday, July 22, 2013
UPDATING All Day, Every Day

The Russian man has been named as Dmitry Onishchenko, 32, who arrived on Phuket with his wife on Sunday and drowned about 4pm on Monday. It's not know yet whether he was warned not to swim by his resort.

Original Report

PHUKET: A Russian man ''virually stepped over red flags'' to drown at Phuket's Karon beach this afternoon.

Lifeguard officials said the man was warned several times about dangerous surf at the beach today but continued to insist that he wanted to swim.

''The beach was closed to swimmers,'' a Phuket Lifeguard Service spokesperson said. ''But the Russian man would not listen.''

Phuket's prime west coast holiday beaches have been declared danger zones this week because tides and unseen currents are considered to be potentially deadly.

Last month in the space of four days, five people drowned on Phuket's west coast beaches - including two Russians.

Conditions on the beaches this week are predicted to be as dangerous as they were last month. In 2012, eight swimmers drowned in the space of eight weeks between mid-May and mid-July.

Phuket's year-round popularity as a beach destination has continued to grow amid concern that not enough is being done to warn tourists of furious surf and deadly currents known as ''rips'' at this time of the year.

The rips are fixed at some points on the beaches but rips also shift depending on the weather and currents each day.

The way to survive when caught in a rip is go with the stream then to move sideways. Resisting the pull of the water is impossible, even for strong swimmers.

Phuket health officials once updated Phuket drowning statistics each month - along with the road toll - but stopped updates in April last year.

It's now no longer possible to tell whether efforts to reduce drownings - and save more lives on Phuket's roads - are succeeding or failing.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I really hope that is was because he did not understand the warnings. Although very obvious to most, some people may have no idea what red flags mean. Sadly enough more strong full moon rip tides.

Posted by Ryan on July 22, 2013 17:48


I think that in addition there should be the same "no entry" signs as they have for roads which as far as I know is understood the world over.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 22, 2013 18:21


People who travel half way across the world to have a beach holiday are hell bent on having one and some ignore the dangers.

Since Phuket and TAT decided to market this place as a year-round beach destination, you can't blame tourists for buying into it.

If they were told in travel brochures, online booking sites and at travel agencies about the risks on Phuket beaches in the low season, these disappointments and unfortunate drowning incidents would surely be significantly reduced.

Give them the information BEFORE they decide where to travel.

Once they are here, some are simply unstoppable, much like this Russian man.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 22, 2013 18:22


Being warned. ..He didn't flags...find something else...give pitbulls to the lifguards. ..People will maybe be sad case sir...

Posted by serge on July 22, 2013 18:25


Are they called RIP tides because they are so deadly (RIP BTW) or because they literally rip your body to shreds?

Posted by apichart wongsuwan on July 22, 2013 19:21

Editor Comment:

More to do, I think, with ''ripping'' from the shore.


I have been reading comments about the lack of warning signs on the beach lately, and it seems that the authorities and lifeguards are getting blamed each time there is a drowning on phuket beach. With no disrespect, the biggest "warning sign" that it is not safe to swim are the waves themselves. I am sure those getting in the water are seeing how big the waves are and it is common sense that if you are not a good swimmer you should not go in the water or you should not surf. I work on the west coast of the island for 2 years now and I can see how big the waves are in the low season. I am surprised why tourists keep ignoring this and keep putting their lives in danger. I dont think it is ignorance! Again, with no disrespect to the victims and their families, the victims have to take most of the blame for what is happening. There are limited things authorities and lifeguards can do to prevent these tragedies. The media is doing their part by reporting how dangerous phuket waters are in the low season, but many people are still not paying attention!

Posted by John on July 22, 2013 19:44

Editor Comment:

We will try to find out whether this man was warned at the place where he was staying. It's a mistake, though, to presume other people have any knowledge about the beach and its moods. Distinguishing a good day for swimming from a bad day for swimming requires experience. Many visitors to Phuket do not know or understand anything about beaches, except that they have paid for a beach holiday and they are going to have one. Saving lives has more to do with repetitive warnings at the airport, in person on check-in and at the beach. Every resort on Phuket should really have somewhere in the foyer close to the entrance a changeable sign to alert people whether its safe or unsafe to swim.


I am a surfer at Kata Beach, and many of the Lifeguards are my friends..All these Lifeguards do a great job!...
Your article says the Russian was warned several times, and was aware of the red flags...And still went in the water..So What else are they to do?...

Maybe carry a taser gun?..I watched one of my lifeguard friends get into a shoving match with one young. Russian kid, in waist deep water,who wouldnt get out of the water...
In California, if you dont listen to the lifeguard they call the Police, who then come down and arrest you...

Posted by Anonymous on July 22, 2013 20:57

Editor Comment:

What we don't know is whether this person was warned at the place where they were staying. Lifeguards say they can't do it alone, so a series of warnings is what's required - particularly by those who benefit from having beach holiday tourists come to Phuket in the low season. ''Arrests'' are a partial solution in developed countries where there is no shortage of police. For now on Phuket, what's required is a serious community attempt at dissuading people from swimming on danger days. That means the people who profit most from the tourists being here also must become key players in saving their lives.


Editor..I understand your point, but if i am at the beach, and i am getting ready to go in the ocean, and i see all these red flags, and then i am warned several times by the Lifeguards not to go swimming, because its dangerous, i think i know what i would do...NOT GO IN!....just sayin'...

Posted by Anonymous on July 22, 2013 21:10


1. apichart wongsuwan, there is NO such thing as a rip tide, it is a rip current.

2. The moon has no affect on rip currents, I do not know came up with this idea, in fact another media outlet has called them super full moon rip currents, a load of rubbish.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 22, 2013 21:53


i know some lifeguards from the beach and what i think needs to be mentioned is that their work is not appreciated, neither by the local government nor by swim-hungry tourists. they are underpaid, have old equipment, even their uniforms are not replaced... and some tourists even start a fight when they dont agree on the red flags. of course only until the lifeguards rescue them, than its a different story...

Posted by Jakub on July 22, 2013 23:24


Ed, you are probably going to blast me for this comment but as another reader stated in Calif you get arrested. In Australia were you and I have lived you have many Asian tourists who are not good swimmers especially around Cairns and the big beaches further south Sunshine Coast, Surfers Paradise, Bondi but very rarely do you have a death. I am not sure if you can get arrested but I am sure if the Thai Police were called then people would come out of the water at the sight of Police in uniform. Like many things in Phuket unless it has a direct loss of tourist revenue not enough is done. Life is cheap in Thailand not the same as the US and Australia. I am surprised at myself for writing these harse words but many people who have lived here a long time will agree with me. Let's cut to the point and hope Police can intervene to save lives.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 23, 2013 00:18


Self inflicted,how do you protect people from themselves,the holiday brochures advertising this year round beach destination must be the best marketers and promotors in the world.

Posted by slickmelb on July 23, 2013 01:25


Maybe a Skull on a red flag might be a better international flag to fly. I was walking along Karon Beach second half of June this year and I saw a guy walk down into the water followed by his girlfriend, straight towards a Rip Current. He went out dunked down in shallows and then kept heading out. I yelled at him and pointed to the out going froth that was indicating the Rip (GF stopped in shallows). He looked and obviously didn't understand. I made gestures with my arm to indicate he would be pulled out, as I walked towards him getting closer and still yelling. Finally he yells "is there a problem". I said "Yes you are swimming straight into a F'n big Rip". He looked behind out to sea and I doubt he was any the wiser. He didn't respond. He walked out adjusting his hair and I walked on. Just to clarify the Rip doesn't pull you under, if you can't swim it takes you out of your depth and if you can swim and try and swim beachwards against it exhausts you. Swim calmly parallel to the beach until out of the Rip and then swim beachwards. If you can't swim stay out of big waves, and don't go past your knees to cool off. You can walk out and if there is a gutter (a trench running parallel to beach) or a Hole ou can go from waste deep to way above your head in a single step. Be safe take care.

Posted by Bing on July 23, 2013 05:29


@Phuket_IOC the full moon creates much larger tides than usual, sometimes by several meters. The tide still takes roughly 6 hours to go in and out, with so much more water involved around the time of a full moon how do you suppose rips will be unchanged? Ofcorse rips will be bigger, all that extra water has to get back out to sea somehow

Posted by S on July 23, 2013 09:16

Editor Comment:

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that the rips disappear in a king tide and the water flows back and forth in other ways. The drownings in bad seas are not always due to rips. In some cases, people simply get knocked off their feet. We welcome an expert's view on how Phuket's tides behave at different times.


The problem now in Phuket, unlike in the past, is it has become numbers game..

The mass tourism from Russia and China, 2 countries, that aren't familiar with the beach and ocean, you are bound to have a few casualties.

There is no way to prevent it, sad to say....

Posted by Anonymous on July 23, 2013 10:06

Editor Comment:

Needless drownings can be prevented - by those responsible for enticing the tourists to come on Phuket beach holidays at the wrong time.


riptide (n) 1. also called:rip. a stretch of turbulent water in the sea, caused by the meeting of currents. 2. Also called: rip current.

Posted by FrankieV on July 23, 2013 11:32


It looks like warnings are ignored by most tourists.

I could imagine that a handful of multi language police volunteers and a single officer at each of the bigger beaches could prevent many of these accidents.

It might also be helpful if somebody would be so kind to enlighten this forum about how they handle these situations in Australia and California - this knowledge might sieve out to the Thai authorities.

Posted by Sherlock on July 23, 2013 13:04

Editor Comment:

The lessons from Australia and California are fully understood but the manpower and available equipment are vastly different.


@S... I suggest you do your homework, before trying to "outsmart" me. you are correct in stating tides can rise and fall by several metres, but they move too slowly to create rips, this is a fact.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 23, 2013 13:28


@ Phuket_IOC. Water escapes mainly where the bottom is deepest - the rip channels. Also the extra water from a several meter tide.

The return of tide water to the ocean takes six hours, but there is a huge volume of it, so the return of a high tide will increase the strength of a rip current.

Posted by Sherlock on July 23, 2013 14:55

Editor Comment:

The tsunami on the Phang Nga coast was an exceptionally ''high tide'' but the water behaved uncharacteristically and circled in a washing machine fashion close to shore, picking up debris (including bodies) from one spot and depositing everything elsewhere. I am not sure beach currents behave the same way from day to day and season to season, let alone in abnormal tides where the water flow increases - how much? Fifty percent? My hunch is that rips are of no consequence, swamped by volume and power, and the underwater map of the beach is redrawn.


@Sherlock, you are another one who does not do any research, the tide, on any beach goes out at the same rate, it does NOT channel itself into a single point, to form a rip current, a rip current is formed by the action of waves and the shoreline. From USA l;ifesaving Assoc. "As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they will break near the shoreline. When waves break strongly in some locations and weakly in others, this can cause circulation cells which are seen as rip currents: narrow, fast-moving belts of water traveling offshore."

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 23, 2013 15:41


@ Phuket_IOC. But the water from the tide for some unknown reason is unable to mix up with these narrow, fast-moving belts of water traveling offshore, I understand now.

Posted by Sherlock on July 23, 2013 17:44


While you armchair acedemics discuss the
all important vital compositions of water behaviour & its tides the body count is stacking up

Posted by slickmelb on July 23, 2013 20:34


I am gravely concerned by the image of two lifeguards standing next to the body of the victim, apparently already having given up any resuscitation attempt. I have worked in EMS in Thailand and the states. The protocols are the same at both. A resuscitation attempt should never be called in the field, especially by lifeguards which have very basic training. Ambulances are only a few minutes away and there are many cases in which a lifeless body has been pulled from water and, after CPR, been revived. Even the basic levels of medically trained people are supposed to know this.

Posted by NomadJoeDiver on July 23, 2013 23:03


Slickmelb, true and so sad, that body count still grows, unfortunately because it happens so often, we are becoming a little desensitised.

Nomadjoediver, I agree, I was ALWAY told the CPR should be continued until medical assistance arrives. "Neurologically-intact survival has been reported in several victims submerged for up to 60 min."

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 24, 2013 06:35


I tend to agree with ThaiMike. TAT needs to stop marketing Phuket as an all year round beach paradise. Its not and is dangerous to do so. When marketed in this way, once the tourists get here they expect to swim at the beach regardless of the conditions

Posted by Damien on July 24, 2013 09:13

Editor Comment:

Does the TAT market Phuket that way? I'd welcome seeing the evidence.


on very dangerous days, the lifeguards could add blag flags or stripes below the red flag, indicating numbers of people that have died in the last N months, or a board with actual pictures and dates.

Posted by somchai on July 24, 2013 12:16

Sunday December 4, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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