PHUKET – The Royal Thai Navy ship (HTMS) Pattani rescued approximately 455 tourists from Tachai Island in Khura Buri district which is located 80 kilometers away from the mainland.
According to a manager of the livea-board dive vessel Little Princess has given dramatic details of how the boat sank in heavy seas off Koh Tachai in Phang Nga province yesterday (April 16), with many passengers jumping overboard, and their belongings sinking to the bottom of the sea along with the ship.
The manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Little Princess set sail from Bon Island, south of Tachai, at midday, the weather appeared normal; though there were some waves, and the boat could not move at normal cruising speed.
By about 2 pm, the Little Princess was about four nautical miles (7.5 kilometres) from Tachai Island. The weather was deteriorating with heavy rain and larger waves driven by rising winds from the west
The passengers became increasingly anxious as waves poured over the stern and through ventilation holes. The crews used the bilge pump at full power in an attempt to bail out the water, then added a second pump, but still the water gained.
About 1.6 nautical miles (3 km) from Koh Tachai, the boat was listing heavily and the crew could not right it. More waves poured in.
At that point, some passengers jumped overboard wearing life jackets or Buoyancy Control Devices (BCDs), with the aim of swimming to the island.
One passenger filled 12 BCDs with air and the crew threw those into the water for extra buoyancy for the swimmers.
The captain sent out an SOS by radio and fired off two distress flares while crew counted the people in the water. They realised there were still four passengers aboard the boat, below decks. They too were helped overboard.
Just in time; the boat by now was lying on its side and beyond hope of saving.
Two crew members hurried to launch the Little Princess’s two life rafts, but succeeded with only one because the interior of the boat had started to break up. They abandoned ship.
Moments later the Little Princess sank to the sea bed, some 70 metres below.
Surin National Park officials, having heard the SOS, tried to reach the site in a rubber dinghy, but could not find the swimmers in the high waves.
After about 30 minutes a fishing boat that had been sheltering from the storm in the lee of Koh Tachai wighed anchor and went to the recsue, plucking everyone out of the water and then heading back to the island, landing at about 5 pm.
Meanwhile, the Thai Navy ship HTMS Pattani Ship was on the way from the Tab Lamu Navy base. It arrived off Koh Tachai at 9 pm and started taking on board the 400 people hunkering down on the island, including the passengers and crew of the Little Princess.
The Pattani eventually arrived back at Tab Lamu at 3 am today (April 17), with no serious injuries or deaths among the victims of the storm.
The manager of the Little Princess said, with tears in his voice, “There is no way that the boat – which is worth about B15 million – can be salvaged. We’ve had this boat for eight years. It was an accident and no one wanted it to happen.
“I have insurance but it will not cover all the losses, which include diving equipment and passengers’ personal belongings, including identity documents.”