Instead, four days after the incident, Mr MaAnn this morning (July 26) confirmed he was aware of the incident, and offered, “We are still investigating what happened, why the lifeguards did not help.”
Mr MaAnn said that the man rescued was a 22-year-old Lebanese tourist staying at a nearby hotel.
“He sneaked away from his family to swim at Surin Beach. The surf was too strong and he could not help himself, but he was provided help and was brought back to shore.
“The ambulance staff gave him first aid. His symptoms were not serious. He had just choked on some water, he had not lost consciousness,” Mr MaAnn added.
The local surfer who rescued the Lebanese tourist was Alik Reyes Narag, a local surfer at Surin Beach who has lived in Phuket for nine years – and who credits his rescue ability to carry out the rescue to training he received at an event organised by the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) at Surin Beach last year.
Mr Narag passed the course and is now an accredited Ocean Lifeguard to international standard.
Mr Narag also modestly credited the rescue to the help of a Frenchman who he called a “hero”.
The Frenchman, on holiday in Phuket, said he was a trained lifeguard in his home country, Mr Narag added.
Mr Narag and the Frenchman rescued the tourist while lifeguards stayed on the beach, refusing to enter the water to save the struggling tourist.
“I noticed that in that situation the lifeguards did not respond efficiently. No lifeguard got in the water immediately to rescue the victim. I saw them, They didn’t know what to do,” Mr Narag told The Phuket News.
“One of them grabbed a surfboard but was afraid to enter the water, then he yelled at me and pointed at the guy struggling, fighting the rip current. The other one was holding his phone, watching,” he added.
“I quickly started to paddle over to the victim, but it was good there also was a guy from France, who said he works as a lifeguard in his country, who swam over and supported the victim with his arm around him to lift his head out of the water.
“That guy is a hero,” Mr Narag said.
“I came up and slid my board over for the victim to grab it and Frenchman swam away because we were heading towards the rocks.
“That was another bad thing… Nobody even threw us a line or anything that we could pull. We were heading towards the rocks before our feet could reach the bottom. My board slammed on a rock. I thought my fins or board would break. Luckily one quite strong swell came over and pushed us towards the shore,” he explained.
While tourists are exposed to life-threatening danger at Surin Beach, the lifeguards themselves are being provided a level of protection more than anyone else involved in surf rescues.
No one at Cherng Talay OrBorTor was willing to comment or even give out contact info for the anyone responsible for lifeguards at Surin Beach.
Instead, they insisted that The Phuket News must speak with Chief MaAnn – and him alone.
To that, Mr MaAnn defended the lifeguards. “Our lifeguards are good to do their job. People just blame lifeguards – some people lose the profit about this,” he said, casting an allegation he was not willing to explain whilst detracting from the issue that the lifeguards at Surin were not even willing to enter the water to attempt to save a tourist’s life.
“We will have to check (about the incident) and will let you know,” he promised.
The failure of lifeguards at Surin Beach to be able or willing to carry out surf rescues has been apparent for months now, notes Daren Jenner of the ISLA, a point clearly supported by repeated reports by regular visitors at Surin Beach.
That same point was even supported by Dr Nutpol Sirisawang, who as Managing Director of LP Laikhum Co Ltd headed the company most recently appointed to provide lifeguards at Surin, Bang Tao, Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches.
Dr Nutpol in May openly called local authorities out on not providing the budget to provide the rescue equipment needed by lifeguards to carry out rescues. (See story here.)
At last report LP Laikhum’s contract ended on May 31, throwing into doubt exactly who are serving as lifeguards at Surin Beach. Unofficial reports say that depending who is on watch, the current lifeguards are either former qualified lifeguards or untrained well-wisher volunteers hoping to provide some level of protection at the beach.
Meanwhile, the standard practice at Surin is to have red “no swimming flags” posted along the entire beach to deter swimmers from entering the water.
“Since June 1 of this year, a safe swimming area has not been marked by the red and yellow flags at Surin Beach. This overuse of red flags will work up to a certain point,” Mr Jenner noted on Monday, stressing the point that sooner or later tourists just ignore the warnings. (See story here.)
Apparently more red flags were delivered to the lifeguards just four days ago.
Meanwhile, the dangerous surf continues to pound Phuket’s west coast today (July 26), following lifeguards at Nai Harn Beach rescuing at least 18 people – 10 Russians, four Chinese and four Thais – from dangerous surf.
More rescues continued yesterday, with the Phuket Naiharn Surf Lifesaving Club posting online the sublime comment, “Everyday normal”.
Mr Jenner today (July 26) warned that waves were predicted to build even more over next few days.
“The ISLA recommends that Phuket’s ‘exposed’ west coast beaches be closed to swimmers. However, sheltered areas of Kata, Kamala, Patong and BangTao may have slightly better conditions, and lifeguards may set up designated swimming areas, designated by a pairs of red-and-yellow flags,” he advised.
However, he also stressed fro safety, “Just because a beach is not marked with red flags, does NOT mean it is safe to enter the water. Swimmers should strictly adhere to all posted signs and warnings by lifeguards.
“If a safe swimming area is not designated by red-and-yellow flags on any Phuket beach, or lifeguards are not visible, entering the water is not recommended,” he said.
Mr Jenner also warned, “We are also at the peak of danger due to the tides. Large tidal swings over the next few days will add to the danger, on the outgoing tide, the existing rips increase in speed and strength.
“Notice the rescues and near-misses we have had were almost all during the outgoing tide.
Over the next few days, tide going out roughly between 10am and 5pm, peak beach visitor hours.”
Of note, since the Phuket lifeguard fiasco began last year with the Phuket Lifeguard Service (PLS), which had provided lifeguards on Phuket’s beaches for more than 10 years, refusing to submit an offer for the government contract to do so because of the poor budget provided, Phuket has been without a single government authority or local organisation to compile, coordinate or report comprehensively on lifeguard protection services and rescues throughout the province.