The Raja 4 ferry operated by Raja Ferry Plc was loaded with garbage, three 10-wheel lorries and a pick-up truck, heading for Don Sak pier on the mainland. About two nautical miles from Koh Samui, as it passed between Koh 4 and Koh 5 islands, the vessel was hit by a strong storm and high waves and capsized at about 10pm.
Twelve of the 16 passengers on board were employees of Raja Ferry, 11 crewmembers and a saleswoman. The four others were drivers of the three lorries and the pick-up.
A rescue operation centre was set up on Koh Samui, with Mr Wichawut as director.
Two marine police patrol boats were dispatched on the rescue mission. They were able to rescue nine people on Saturday night, leaving seven others still missing.
The operation continued into the night, with three helicopters from the 2nd Naval Area, the 4th Army and the 7th Air Wing searching from the sky.
At about 12pm yesterday, two of the missing were found on Koh Taen island, about 2 nautical miles from where the ferry capsized. They had managed to swim to the island, where local residents gave them food and water. The two were identified as crewmembers Pachara Thiprat and Suvit Nakhonsethvorachai. A boat was dispatched to Koh Taen to take them to Koh Samui.
At 1.30pm, the rescue team found the body of a man on Koh Mod Daeng island, near Koh Taen. He was identified as Tewin Surat, the ferry skipper.
Four people who had been on board the stricken ferry were still missing. They were named as saleswoman on board Naparada Chanhan, two crew members - Siravut Thongboonyang and Tawakorn Vachararit - and lorry driver Chaichan Laosap.
Mr Pachara, a survivor, said he drifted in the sea between Koh 4 and Koh 5 islands for two or three hours, kept afloat by a rubber buoy. At one point, he saw a marine police boat some distance from him, but was unable to attract the attention of anyone on board. He was eventually blown by the wind toward Koh Taen island, where he scrambled ashore at about 8am and was helped by islanders.
Yesterday, Piya Nunil, chief of the Ang Thong Islands National Marine Park, declared the closure of the marine park from Aug 2-5 for safety reasons. The move followed the Thai Meteorological Department’s warning about tropical storm “Sinlaku”, which made a landfall over Vietnam yesterday morning. Heavy rain is expected in all regions.