Urgent calls for more information on the danger of riptides on Phuket beaches: Some locals in Phuket have criticised the lack of lifeguards and the visibility of red flags on the Surin beach where the UK man died on Wednesday. However, even though a local official has confirmed that authorities are urgently recruiting lifeguards, a 26-year-old volunteer lifeguard heroically saved the life of the UK man’s son. Calls for more information on riptide currents to be made available to foreigners may be justified as 2017 figures show that over 90% of rescue incidents involved foreigners in Phuket. International figures show that Phujket’s beaches, as well as being among the most beautiful in the world, are also quite safe. Wednesday’s tragic death, however, has generated some controversy as days earlier, there was an incident on the same beach and local social media users had been complaining about a lack of information and warnings.  

Mandy Wan, the wife of the UK man from Northern Ireland who drowned tragically after being carried away by a large wave into a dangerous riptide current this week at Surin beach in Phuket, is in Thailand to make arrangement to bring her husband’s body home and support her 25-year-old son. Chau Wan perished in the tragic accident on Wednesday afternoon. Heroic and fearless action by a volunteer lifeguard on duty at the beach, 26-year-old Amnad Chuasaman, almost certainly saved the life of her 25-year-old son who was swimming with his father at the time. Father and son had arrived in Phuket last Sunday for a holiday.

Chau Wan (left) who died last Wednesday on Phuket’s Surin beach was a highly regarded and respected businessman in Portadown Northern Ireland where he had run a number of Chinese restaurants. He was swimming with his 25-year-old son James at the popular beach in windy conditions when the pair were carried off by a riptide. The younger man was saved by the heroic action of volunteer lifeguard 26-year-old Amnad Chuasaman who returned a second time but found the older man face down in the water. Mr Wan’s wife Mandy (right) has flown out to Thailand to be with her son and arrange to repatriate her husband’s body.

The wife of a UK man from Northern Ireland has flown into Thailand to comfort her son and make arrangements after her husband was killed on Wednesday in a riptide incident on Surin Bay on the west side of Phuket Island.

The death of the UK man has raised some concerns about warning and information notices relating to the danger of the tides on the beaches of Phuket which had been the subject of online debate days before the death of the 53-year-old man who, it is understood, originally had links with Asia and lived in Northern Ireland.

Local newspaper in Phuket highlights concerns among locals prior to the tragedy

The local newspaper in Phuket, The Phuket News, has been highlighting the issue. Three days before the death of the UK man there had been several incidents linked with Surin beach and nearby Karon which had prompted online commentators to complain that no red flags were flying at the beach to warn swimmers to stay away. This has since been disputed by authorities who have provided a photograph of a red flag flying.

An official says authorities are recruiting lifeguards as a priority for Surin beach

Some concern was acknowledged by local official MaAnn Samran the day after the UK swimmer’s death when he revealed that the local authority was urgently seeking lifeguards to be stationed at the beach. The local Thai man who rescued the dead UK man’s son on Wednesday and who went back into the water a second time in a vain attempt to rescue Mr Chau Wan has been named as local Amnad Chuasaman. Described in some news reports as a volunteer lifeguard, the local man, is also a hero.

Man who drowned arrived in Phuket with his 25-year-old son on Sunday, June 30th for a holiday

Chau Wan from Northern Ireland and his 25-year-old son, James, who works in Dubai, arrived in Phuket for a holiday last Sunday the 30th of June. On Wednesday, they arrived at the beach on a motorbike and were only in the water five minutes when they began to experience difficulties.

Volunteer lifeguard rescued UK man’s son but the second attempt to retrieve father failed

Captain Warawut Sensob of the Cherng Talay Police briefed the media on the incident. He said the local beachgoer and volunteer, Amnad Chuasaman, reported the incident to emergency services and went into the sea to rescue the pair. Reaching the UK man’s son James first, he pulled him to the safety of the beach. He then re-entered the water and ran to the older man only to find he had already drowned with his face down in the water. 

Thai official says the beach was flying a red flag on the day the UK man drowned

The local authority chief responsible for the beach has said that a red flag was flying on the beach and has sent the media a  photo of this. MaAnn Samran has also pointed out that the man who rescued Mr Wan’s son was a volunteer. Some locals, however, complain that the red flag was not flown in a more visible location so swimmers could easily see it. They suggest that it was positioned away from the beach and near the road. 

UK man and his son were swimming at quite a distance from the fearless volunteer

The local chief also told the media this week that the UK man and his son were swimming at quite a distance from where the volunteer was stationed. He also suggested that people cannot rely on a volunteer to be readily available at all times. MaAnn Samran: ‘Even though there is a volunteer around there, we all well know that the volunteer cannot be there at the beach to keep watch all day. They have to leave the beach at some time when they have things to do somewhere else.’

Despite this, it is clear that were it not for 26-year-old Amnad Chuasaman’s brave and fearless action, the tragedy that occurred on Wednesday would probably have seen two men drown at the hands of a merciless riptide.

26-year-old Thai volunteer lifeguard recounted what happened last Wednesday

The 26-year old who rescued the UK man’s son has also spoken to the media. He said that he had observed the father and son arriving at the beach on a motorbike at 2.30pm on Wednesday last. He said conditions on the beach were very windy and there were high waves visible. He reported that the father and son were swept out to sea by a particularly virulent wave and he immediately came to the rescue, swimming out and catching hold of the younger man. He brought him ashore and contacted the emergency services to send an ambulance. He then swam back into the sea in an attempt to rescue the older man but it was too late.

British embassy notified following the death

Following last Wednesday’s tragedy, Thai police in Phuket notified the British embassy in Bangkok so that the family of the drowned man could be informed. It is also reported that the body of Wan Chau Ming was taken to Talang Hospital where an autopsy was performed.

Phuket’s beaches are safe but pose more of a risk to foreigners who account for 90% of incidents

Figures show that the beaches in Phuket are of particular danger to foreigners or tourists who are not aware of the danger from riptides and conditions that can develop. Official figures for 2017, for instance, show that of 294 rescue efforts recorded on the beaches around Phuket, 265 of these involved foreigners. The number of deaths from drownings in Phuket is very low with only 1 recorded in the same year. This compares very favourably with the international average of countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom.

Calls for more information to be made available to tourists on the dangers of tides

 The figures concerning rescue attempts do, however, justify calls for information to be made available to visitors to Phuket availing of the beautiful beaches and surroundings. The beaches of Phuket with their white sands and places to eat and relax are highly popular with tourists from all over the world. The beaches normally have lifeguards and volunteers to protect the public.

Riptides the biggest danger worldwide to offshore swimmers, 100 perish in the US every year

It should be noted that riptides are a danger at many beaches throughout the world depending on prevailing weather conditions. In the United States, for instance, it is reported that over 100 people drown from riptides every year although official figures only confirm half this number. It is the major cause of accidental drownings worldwide by those swimming from the shore.

Online concerns about Surin beach expressed on social media days before the tragedy

The warning and discussions online about beach safety in Phuket and Surin beach took place days before the death of the UK man. It involved Thai locals who complained that there were no lifeguards on duty at Surin. They also warned about the lack of visibility of red flags as locals were well aware of the danger of riptides.

Thai man rescued on the same beach the day the UK man and his son arrived in Phuket

On the day that the 53-year-old Northern Irish man and his 25-year-old son arrived in Phuket for their holiday, there was another incident on the same beach. This time it involved a Thai man named as 25-year-old Wanchalerm Sata who was rescued from the tide at the beach. On the same day, at Karon beach nearby, a woman, reported to be a foreigner, was also caught up in a dangerous riptide. Both individuals were given first aid by responders.

During the online debate, some social media commenters thought that the incidents should be highlighted and warnings issued to visitors unaware of the threat lurking beneath the water.

Local surfer explained how a Russian visitor and his friend ignored his warning

A contributor to the discussions, a local surfer, familiar with the conditions and the tides, told of how he took it upon himself to warn a Russian man with his friend not to enter the water but was upbraided for his efforts. The pair could later be seen experiencing difficulties dealing with the sea conditions and returning to the beach in an exhausted and shocked state, he wrote online. Locals, surfers and volunteers called for more information or warnings to be issued regarding sea conditions near the beaches.

The Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha is due to visit Phuket on Monday. The visit was announced the Governor of Phuket Phakaphong Tawipatana on Monday last July 1st. 

Heartfelt tributes to Chau Wan expressed in Northern Ireland where he and his wife Mandy lived

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the man from Northern Ireland who died on Wednesday at home in Ireland. Chau Wan lived with his wife Mandy in the Ballyshannon area of Portadown in the Irish province which is still a part of the United Kingdom. They were an interracial couple with Mr Wan’s family reportedly originally hailing from Asia. The couple had two children, a son and daughter, James and Jessica. The couple were well-known business people in the area having run several Chinese restaurants including the most famous one known as the Golden Bridge.

‘I am completely devastated for Mandy and the children’

This week a local Councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh City in Northern Ireland Councillor Margaret Tinsley said this about the local businessman: ‘Everybody knew him and Mandy when they ran the Golden Bridge and they would have known all their customers coming in. I am completely devastated for Mandy and the children.’

Councillor Tinsely was a member of the same church as the couple and recalled that although Mr Wan was quietly spoken, he was an engaging man to have a conversation with. Prayers were said this week for the man who died at Surin Beach in Phuket at the Bethany Free Presbyterian Church in Portadown, Northern Ireland.

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Further reading:

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Thai beaches are relatively safe from shark attacks when compared with other coastal regions such as Florida

Wife and mother from Northern Ireland flies to Thailand after tragic death of her husband

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