Surasit Phonglaohaphan, otherwise known as Dr Toh, was pulled from the water by lifeguards along with British tourist, Ali Mohammed Mian, who was in Phuket on his honeymoon.
Both had reportedly ignored the red flags on the beach warning of strong waves and rip currents which made swimming too dangerous, and both were swept away from the shore, lifeguards reported.
Dr Toh, 55, and Mr Mian, 33, were pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive. Lifeguards were unable to detect a pulse and administered CPR on the beach until an EMS unit arrived and took the men to Chalong Hospital. Both were pronounced dead on arrival.
It was not clear whether both got into difficulty in the water separately or whether one of the men had attempted to help the other. Authorities have offered no official comment to this effect although one Phuket News reader present at the beach at the time of the incident did comment she saw Mr Mian attempting to help Dr Toh after he got into trouble and “as lifeguards were too slow”.
“They were both swimming between red and yellow flags when they were swept out and across the breach. I witnessed the whole event,” the observer said.
Dr Toh’s family and colleagues, however, say they would not be surprised if it had been the other way round and it was he that had attempted to help Mr Mian and he subsequently died as a result.
Dr Toh was a specialist at Lampang Hospital Social Medicine Group who instinctively helped others, an unnamed member of his family said.
The 55-year-old was a kind, caring, selfless individual who got along well with everyone he met, the family member added. He was also a keep-fit fanatic who, when he wasn’t working, would regularly be found running, to the extent that he received the nickname “Dr Running”.
Dr Toh’s body was transferred to his hometown where a merit-making ceremony is being held for him at Wat Suan Dok, Mueang District, Lampang Province, today.
Lampang Hospital has confirmed is will be hosting prayers tomorrow at 9:30am. Afterwards Dr Toh’s body will be taken to the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University.
Following the dual drownings, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew called on lifeguards to ramp up their efforts to protect tourists at Phuket beaches as strong waves and rip currents continue to plague the island’s west coast.