In the unfolding aftermath of the speedboat catastrophe on the evening of May 17, 2023, a fresh wave of facts and inquiries have surfaced that continue to grip the island paradise of Phuket.
The maritime misfortune, which left 35 holidaymakers injured, was a result of the speedboat ‘Thanathip Marine 555’ colliding with a channel marker 700 meters off Chalong Pier. Ferrying back 33 tourists from the serene Phi Phi Island, the vessel bore an array of nationalities from Thai and Russian to Kazakh, a Hongkonger and a Chinese national, their tranquility shattered by the abrupt chaos.
Phuket, an idyllic island retreat known for its tourist allure, has sadly witnessed numerous boat accidents in recent years. The 2018 Phoenix boat tragedy, which led to the death of 47 Chinese tourists, still looms large in memory, provoking critical discussions around maritime safety measures.
In a significant development today, Director of the Phuket Harbor Office, Natchapong Pranit, marshalled a comprehensive inspection of the ill-fated speedboat. Maritime Inspector Adul Rakmoon, flanked by shipwrights and officials from Chalong police and Phuket tourist police, scrutinized the ship, now hoisted in a boat repair yard in Chalong.
Rakmoon’s preliminary findings bring a twist to the tale. Contrary to initial speculations around mechanical failure, he reported that the engine, steering controls, and other vital components were functioning before the crash. A newly spotted oil leak from the hydraulic system piqued interest, though it is uncertain whether it played any role in the accident.
Despite the considerable damage from the collision, the boat, on the whole, was found to be in acceptable shape. Rakmoon highlighted that the investigation hinged on three main factors – the ship’s condition, the prevailing weather, and the boat’s skipper. While the boat’s condition raised no immediate red flags and the weather was deemed normal, the skipper’s role is still under the microscope.
Rakmoon urged patience, emphasizing that the definitive cause of the accident couldn’t be pinpointed yet as more evidence needed to be collected, including vital testimonies from the tourists and the guide on board.
The inspection team later moved to the actual crash site at Chalong Bay to evaluate the damaged channel marker and its potential part in the debacle. As the accident probe intensifies, all eyes are on Phuket and its maritime safety measures.
While there’s relief over no fatalities, the accident sends a chilling reminder of the potential perils lurking in Phuket’s serene waters. As the world watches the unraveling investigation, one can’t help but wonder – will this incident catalyze a significant change in Phuket’s boating safety norms? The coming days will provide the answers.