Accident is a timely reminder of the need for tighter controls and screening of boat skippers in Phuket and other tourist hotspots in Thailand after the 2018 Phoenix disaster on the holiday island which saw 47 Chinese tourists killed when that boat overturned. This week, authorities stressed that the craft involved in this latest incident was not overcrowded and, on Friday, it was also confirmed that it was seaworthy before the crash while the firm’s owners had medical insurance coverage of ฿500,000 for everyone requiring treatment. There were no fatalities although six were critically injured with ten cases of people suffering broken bones or fractures in the collision.

Authorities in Phuket are indicating that legal action may be taken after a speedboat incident on Tuesday in which over 30 people were injured including six left with critical injuries and ten who ended up suffering broken bones or fractures. The news comes after a regional inspector on Friday declared that the boat showed no signs of disorder or damage which may have contributed to the accident.

Scenes from Tuesday’s chaotic rescue at Chalong Pier after emergency services arrived at the scene. (Inset) The speedboat after it hit the lighthouse structure in the channel and a review of the boat on Friday by inspectors, including Mr Adul Raluekmoon of the regional Marine Office who declared it sea-worthy before the crash.

On Friday, Mr Adul Raluekmoon, the Marine Office inspector for the region who inspected the craft in Chalong in the presence of police officers, declared that there was no abnormality with the boat.

After questioning mechanics and guides who used the craft he said: ‘Everything was normal without any signs to say there would be an accident. The engine part is normal. Then we looked at the controls and steering. Whether turning left or right or in a normal position, all worked normally. But we found a crack in a vent for hydraulic oil. All other parts of the boat are normal. There are only traces of damage caused by the collision,’ Mr Adul reported.

Fault for the crash may rest with the boat’s skipper last Tuesday who police wish to question after the collision with a channel marker in Chalong

With six people still being reported as critical in hospital in Phuket, island authorities on Thursday were indicating that preliminary enquiries suggest that the fault for Tuesday’s speedboat accident may rest with the controller of the craft which ploughed into a channel marker or lighthouse structure as the boat was returning to Chalong Pier from Phi Phi Island at sometime before or after 5 pm on Tuesday.

The boat had been out on a popular nature tour excursion to the islands off Phuket.

The accident occurred 700 metres from the pier and emergency personnel were alerted to the disaster at 5.52 pm

There were 37 people aboard the boat including four Thais, Russians, Kazakhs, Ukrainian and one each from China, and Hong Kong and two people, a forty-two-year-old and forty-year-old husband and wife from Austria.

The Austrian national was identified as Mr Martin Wolfgang Huber who was not admitted to hospital while his wife Ms Romana Waser, was transferred to the Vachira Phuket Hospital for surgery and treatment after initially being admitted to the Mission Hospital in Phuket.

Emergency meeting held by senior provincial authorities after the crash at the local Vachira Phuket Hospital as the injured were assessed and treated

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, an emergency meeting was chaired by Phuket’s Governor Narong Woonsiew along with the Deputy Chief of the Tourist Police, Major General Suphaset Chokchai and the Phuket Provincial Police Chief Major General Sermphan Sirikong.

This took place at the Vachira Phuket Hospital and was attended by the Medical Director of the facility, Dr Weerasak Lorthongkam and Ratchadaporn Oin of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports office in Phuket.

Some of the injured were not admitted to hospital while ten were admitted to Phuket’s government-run Vachira Hospital, nine to Chalong Hospital, two to Dibuk Hospital, five to Bangkok Hospital in Phuket, two to Phuket Provincial Hospital and five to Mission Hospital on the island.

Thirty-five people were reported as having suffered injuries, six of them being Code Red or in a critical state, sixteen were moderately injured or Code Yellow and thirteen with light injuries or Code Green.

Ten people suffered broken bones or fractures in the channel collision.

Phuket’s Marine Office investigating the cause of the crash with the focus moving to the actions and state of mind of the person in control of the boat

The Phuket Marine Office, which is involved in investigating the accident involving the speedboat tour craft, indicated that the Captain of the vessel, who was injured with a broken leg and is currently being treated in hospital, may have been at fault.

‘From investigating the cause’, it was found that it was caused by the negligence of the boat controller, which is under investigation and action by the authorities,’ a statement from the office said.

On Thursday, Mr Nachapong Pranit of the Marine Office said that the craft’s captain will be summoned for questioning once he is fit to do so while authorities have also confirmed that the skipper was tested for alcohol.

There are indications that legal action will be taken concerning the accident based on preliminary findings.

Those aboard the craft covered for ฿500,000 in emergency medical costs with six people reported to be in a stable but critical condition in hospital

In a medical report on the critically injured, on Thursday, Dr Weerasak, the Medical Director of Vachira Phuket Hospital said that two Thais and four Russian patients were in a critical but stable condition.

One of those also seriously injured is a 10-year-old Ukrainian girl.

There is some confusion about what time the collision occurred with earlier reports suggesting 4.46 pm and later reports putting the time at 5.30 pm.

The boat itself was moved on Thursday to the Koktanod area of Phuket for technical inspection by police and marine authorities.

It was also confirmed that medical insurance coverage under an insurance policy taken out by the boat’s owner would allow for up to ฿500,000 per passenger for medical treatment after the accident.

The Marine Office in Phuket also announced that the craft had been suspended from service under the 1913 Thai Waters Act.

Accident a reminder of the 2018 Phoenix tragedy

The accident on Tuesday will, no doubt, spark memories of the 2018 tragedy off Phuket when a boat called The Phoenix capsized resulting in the loss of 47 lives, all Chinese holidaymakers.

This resulted, at that time, in questions being asked about the regulation of commercial craft used in the Thai tourism sector and in particular, the licensing and testing of boat operators or skippers.

On Thursday, Thai authorities in Phuket emphasised that the boat in this instance was not overcrowded.

However, they have already proposed that there should be increased scrutiny and screening of drivers, tests for illicit substances and mandatory insurance for craft ferrying the public or tourists.

‘Luckily, no one drowned or fell off the boat,’ Mr Nachapong, the Phuket Marine Department Chief noted. ‘Life jackets are necessary to prevent loss of life.’

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Further reading:

Boat smash in Phuket leaves two Russian children, a boy and girl, dead with 22 tourists hospitalised

Search off Phuket for missing Polish man and Thai woman who went missing while kayaking off the coast

US armed forces welcomed in Laem Chabang for Cobra exercises with Thai counterparts next week