An expat Phuket News reader who witnesses the explosion described it.
“Just before sunset lifeguards put up a red flag. A few minutes later a lifeguard was shouting at people to get out of the water. As people left the water he continued to shout at them, getting the attention of nearby swimmers on the beach.
“Then he approached one couple and shouted at them but they simply walked away. Then he approached a man, woman and child and began shouting at them.
“The man shrugged his shoulders, apparently confused. The lifeguard then really began to have a go at the man and flipped him the middle finger.
“The tourist returned the gesture and the lifeguard started to run after the man. The man ran away and it appeared to be over.
“Then two minutes later the two were back together, jawing at one another. Then the lifeguard took off his shirt and squared up to the man. The man backed up but then the lifeguard swung at the man twice before kicking him in the leg.
“He then got into a Thai boxing stance as if to continue. A few people got in the middle and more lifeguards arrived on the scene. But rather than simply ushering their co-worker away, the other lifeguards basically squared up to everyone as well.
“No tourist was being aggressive. I know the lifeguards have a rough time here but in this incident the aggressor and the rest of the lifeguards were well out of line.
“They’d only just put up the one pole and then this guy just seemed to lose it. I speak some decent Thai and really wanted to ask the guy why he was so angry but he was so worked up I didn’t feel safe approaching him.”
Chula Montri, 43, head of the Naiharn beach lifeguards, was unapologetic. He told The Phuket News, “There were heavy waves at the time and three or four tourists needed help from the team to get out of the water.
“It was a hard job for the team and they were tired [because of it].
“Some tourist obeyed the lifeguards’ urging [to leave the water]. But one man, a Russian, did not want to come back to the beach, even though he was in red flag area.
“The lifeguard wanted him to swim in another, safer area, but he would not listen. He came to the beach and started arguing with the lifeguard. The lifeguard kicked him once because he was overwrought, and the man walked away.”
Mr Chula added, “Sometime it is hard for us to communicate with them. Other foreigners do help us to explain [the rules] in some cases. We set out the red flags at dangerous parts of the beach but some tourists still go in the water.
“From New Year until now it has been very hard work trying to control naughty tourists.”
Later, a consultant to Phuket Lifeguard Club, a private company that runs the lifeguards around the island, said, “I know that he should not have acted like this because he is lifeguard, though I understand that he was angry. But I have already warned and advised him. I have to teach him.
“I am worried about the feedback because we work so hard. But It will be okay.”
He added, “We will improve the lifeguard team.”