KOH SAMET – About 28 tourists were injured, one critically, on Samet Island, shortly after a speedboat left a pier and slammed into a tugboat anchored off the coast of Rayong on Saturday night, police said yesterday.
Twenty-three people were taken to Rayong Hospital, three to Bangkok-Rayong Hospital, and two to Sri Rayong Hospital.
The speedboat was carrying 35 people, 19 men and 16 women, and most were injured by the impact of the boats. One later needed to have a brain operation and another remained in a serious condition with cerebral haemorrhage. Others sustained head and facial injuries, broken ribs and shoulder bones.
The speedboat was taking the revellers back to the Rayong coast after attending the “7th Samet In Love” concert on Samet Island. The boat collided with the tugboat only five minutes after it left the pier.
Chatchawal Panngern, 25, said he was sitting in the front of the boat and saw what happened clearly. He said the driver apparently did not see the tugboat which was moored about a kilometre offshore without lights on.
More than 20,000 revellers had come to Koh Samet to join in the concert organised to boost tourism and income for the locals. The concert started at 4pm on Saturday and wound up at 3am on Sunday. All resort rooms on the island were fully occupied because of the event.
Rayong Deputy Governor Montri Thanachaiwiboonwat called officials to discuss the cause of the accident. He was told the initial investigation found that the speedboat hit the tugboat that had been anchored after transporting concert equipment to the island.
Peerathorn Naksuk, Rayong habour specialist, said harbour laws stated that a speedboat could not take more than 40 people. He said this boat had 35 passengers on board and all had lifejackets.
He suspected the accident occurred because the boat was riding a high wave and the driver could not see the moored tugboat.
Sangket Rattanapanya, the boat owner, and Winai Trakulpong, its driver, were summoned for questioning. The driver said he could not see the tugboat because it was dark and raining. He said he was driving the boat at 30 kilometres per hour.
As of press time, six people were still hospitalised.
Montri visited the injured at Rayong hospital and said each casualty would receive compensation of not more than Bt15,000.
Pol Lt-Colonel Krissana Wanabordinimit said police would take two weeks before determining the cause of the accident as they needed to question everyone on the boat and no one has been charged so far.
He said the tugboat insisted that it had its lights on.
Earlier last month two speedboats packed with 62 tourists collided off the coast of Phuket, leaving at two dead and more than 20 injured.
This crash is the latest incident to mar the country’s image as a tourist paradise and the fourth crash in two months involving boats that shuttle vacationers to Thailand’s resort islands.
By Achara Visedsri – The Nation , Thai PBS