Monday, June 08, 2009

Tragedy in Phuket Island, Thailand

This news with headline "Giant waves off Thai coast drag British tourist to his death" in by Andrew Drummond is making the rounds today:
A BRITISH tourist has died after giant waves dragged him out to sea off the coast of Thailand.
The man became the third holidaymaker in two days to die off the island of Phuket.

James Henry Paton, 21, drowned when a freak wave, which police described as three metres high, trapped him, his girlfriend and two other Britons, and took them out to sea on Saturday.

Two British men and Mr Paton's 21-year-old girlfriend, who is four months pregnant, were rescued but Mr Paton's body was found a kilometre off shore.

A day earlier a Frenchman and his Thai girlfriend died in the same way. And two days before, an Australian family was rescued.

Police say there were red flags up along Karon beach warning tourists not to swim.

Police Colonel Chanat Sutima said: "It is dangerous to go swimming in the rainy season because of the undertows, but many tourists do not realise that."
Here's a picture of Phuket Island I found from here.

It is really rather hard to imagine that a peaceful place like this can have fatal freaque waves. Of course its the responsibility of the tourist to heed local advice or warnings. Waves of 3 m high are not necessarily considered as giant waves in general, but they can certainly cause tragedy to happen nevertheless. Here, again, reiterates the difficulty of defining a freaque wave. Nobody doubt the freaqueness of a 3 m high wave when tragedy occurred, but a recorded over 30 m high waves that does not cause any mishap because there was no one around usually will raise question on whether or not it really did happened. So's the age old question on tree falls in the forest when no one around, did it really made a sound?


sian mulley said...

I never knew james, and it is a terrible sad loss and i feel so much for his family and bethan…
The truth is it angers me that the story above says bethan and 2 english men were rescued when police launched a both, when that is all lies…
I know this has my brother was one of the english guys and he tried to save james from drowning.. along with rescueing a 35 year old women…
The police did nothing, and the life guards wouldnt even go in, they tossed a board at my brother to use instead… My brother is in bits that he couldnt do more and his so angry that the lifeguards and authoritys were useless..
There was around 1000 people on the beach that day, and my brother was the only one who attempted to save the lady, who survived and poor james who he couldnt hold on to as a 3 metre wave went over his head and pulled them under..
The truth is it took the authoritys 20min to launch a boat and another 20mins to find james, the lifeguards and police should be ashamed of themselves and the beach should of been closed and the same incident happened the day before.
When will they learn… and please journalist get your story’s right because the police and lifeguards dont deserve to be reckonised for trying as they did nothing…

andrew said...

I too am really annoyed at the Phuket authorities attitude towards drownings at Phuket. I was at the beach when James' body was brought ashore (it was the next beach around from the where the drowning actually happened)and was really freaked out by the whole thing, so I can't imagine how bad it must be for people who know him.

I have read a few articles in local news reports on his and the other drownings in the area. In all cases the authorities commented on how there were red flags up warning of dangerous conditions and that tourists need to stop ignoring these red flags.

So the red flags are supposed to mean that the beach is dangerous to swim in. But how is anyone meant to know this? It could mean anything. Where I come from in NZ we are told to swim between the flags (i.e. this is a safe place to swim). At Cha-am beach near Bangkok there are red, pink and green flags. What do these mean? Is this some cryptic code we area all supposed to understand.

Furthermore, how are we supposed to know that red flags mean don't swim here when locals are hiring out surfboards and telling people it's fine to go swimming? It almost seems to me that authorities are hiding behind the red flags as a means of shirking responsibility

And why have lifeguards if they aren't going to do anything? This is probably even more dangerous than not having lifeguards at all. To me, seeing a lifeguard in a tower implies that this is a patrolled area and it is safe to swim.

Of course people need to take responsibility for themselves and not swim where it is dangerous. But it is also up to Phuket authorities to inform people of the dangers (especially since they market the place to overseas tourists as a safe family beach).

I have written to the Lonely Planet and Thailand Tourist Authority to make a complaint and I would encourage everyone else out there to do so as well.

Anonymous said...

I was on the beach the day this terrible incident happened.(At Kata) I was appalled how the whole incident was handled. The paramedics were useless did not acknowledge poor Bethan who was obviously in shock, I went up to her and tried to console her and I spoke to the other two men who told me what had happened.Another tourist I had met that day also consoled Bethan and tried to help they too were shocked and appalled by it all. As I read articles on the rescue its obvious who is telling the truth. Thank you sian for your story. I did believe your brother that day and I know what he must be going through as I still cannot get the picture out of my head. I was shocked and appalled by the way the whole incident/ rescue was handled. What I saw that day will stay with me for the rest of my life.I feel for Bethan and Jame's family my deepest condolences R.I.P. James