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Captain high, tourists die, crowded ferry sinks off Pattaya

November 5, 2013 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

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In a sensational development, the captain of a ferry which sank off Pattaya on Sunday, killing six tourists, has reportedly admitted to being high on drugs and losing control of the vessel, which ran onto rocks and capsized. Six tourists, including three foreigners, died when the overcrowded ferry sank off the Thai resort city.

People were initially feared trapped in the submerged vessel, but divers have since reached and entered it and found that this is not the case and there are no more fatalities.

The double-decker ferry sank on Sunday afternoon near the small island of Koh Larn, a popular daytrip excursion off the Pattaya coast. 250x250

Initial reports said a Russian man and woman, a Chinese man and three Thais of undisclosed gender had drowned when the  boat, which allegedly had a maximum capacity of 150 people, left Samae Beach for Bali Hai pier with about 200 Thai, European and Asian tourists aboard.

The Pattaya Mail said a pump was believed to have failed, causing the lower deck to fill with water.  Panicking passengers from below stampeded upstairs, making the vessel top heavy and causing it to list heavily to one side and sink about one kilometre offshore, near Nuan Beach.

Later, reports took a more sinister turn, with the Bangkok Post revealing that the ferry’s captain, Saman Kwanmuang, 42, had turned himself in to police.

Chon Buri police chief, Major General Katcha Tatusatrawhile, said the captain had confessed on Sunday night, hours after the ferry capsized, that he had taken drugs before going to work and that as a result, he and his crew had lost control of the vessel. The captain allegedly confessed that the ferry wandered off course and ran onto rocks, which punched holes in the hull and let water pour in.

When the captain realised the problem, he shut down all power to try to fix the water pump, according to the English-language Bangkok Post, quoting the Thai-language Daily News. Apparently Captain Saman decided not to warn his passengers in case they panicked.

After 10 minutes, however, so much water was flowing into the bottom deck that passengers did panic, rushing upstairs. “Squabbles” broke out over lifejackets as there were not enough for all passengers, the paper reported. That word may be putting it lightly.

Russia’s Ria Novosti news service quoted Russian consul in Bangkok Andrey Dvornykov saying that “at least half of the passengers” were Russian tourists.

The accident it likely to focus increased attention on safety standards in Thailand and the drug use revelations will cause outrage.

Written by : Peter Needham

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