Phuket Vice Governor Suthee Thongyam announced the news at a press conference held yesterday (Sept 3), attended by a slew of experts and high-ranking officials, where he also announced that the hunt had been called off.
“After we heard the news that a tourist had been bitten by a fish (see story here), we ordered the Department of Marine and Coastal Reservation and the Marine Police to investigate the area with divers to find any fish that may harm tourists,” V/Gov Suthee explained.
“The Royal Thai Navy Third also took a helicopter to check along Karon Bay because experts had a different theory on the type of fish that bit Ms Neame. Some say it was a shark, while others believe it was a puffer fish or a trigger fish.”
However, officials and their dive teams found no sea animals they believed could have caused the deep lacerations to Ms Neame’s foot, which suffered a severed tendon and requires surgery. (See story here.)
“The dive teams reported back that they found plenty of beautiful fish and small fish that would harm no one. They found nothing unusual at Karon beach,” V/Gov Suthee said.
“They did not find any big fish that might harm humans.”
However, V/Gov Suthee maintained that safety remained the order of the day.
“As a precaution, Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong has ordered local officials to keep an eye out for tourists and residents,” he said.
“Hotels and resorts along the beaches were warned to be aware of any potential dangers and advised to provide safeguards for tourists. As of today, tourists are back on the beach, enjoying themselves as usual.”
Meanwhile, leading marine-life experts continue to differ on which type of creature might have bitten Ms Neame.
Dr Kongkiat Kittiwatthanawong, Chief of the Marine Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biology Centre (PMBC), remained adamant it was a shark. (See story here.)
“After seeing the wound and examining the trace marks of the teeth on the top and bottom of her foot, I can say that it was a shark bite, and many experts have confirmed that too,” he said.
“We know that local fisherman catch at least two to three Blacktip reef sharks per year in the area where the incident happened, but this type of shark is only found near coral reefs and rarely harms humans, that is why many experts lean toward thinking that a bull shark injured Ms Neame.
“Bull sharks can grow to as big as three to four metres, but Ms Jane’s wound is only 10 centimetres in diameter, which means that maybe a baby shark about 1-1.5 metres long bit her, though I do reiterate that to encounter a bull shark in this area is rare.”
Likewise steadfast was Tassapon Krajangdara, a specialist at the Phuket Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre, who maintained that the wound was not a shark bite. (See story here.)
“We consulted with marine experts in Malaysia and discussed this with very experienced divers, and they all confirmed that the wound on Ms Jane’s foot was not a shark bite,” he said.
“If it were, all the flesh on the top of her foot would be gone since a shark bites, then moves its head back and forth and tears the meat from its prey.
“From the wound, we concluded that the fish only bit her and released, so we believe it was a puffer fish or a trigger fish, and the doctors who treated Ms Jane believe the same,” he said.
“Normally, puffer fish or a trigger fish would not harm anyone, but maybe she was in their territory or had bodily contact with the fish and that could have triggered the attack.”
Additional reporting by Sutthicha Sirirat