The Phoenix sank in a strong storm squall late in the afternoon of July 5. Of the 89 tourists on board, 47 died in the disaster. All those killed and injured in the calamity were tourists from China.
The boat now rests at a depth of about 45 metres.
“At this time, I cannot say when the actual recovery will begin or end as a lot is still being organised. It is taking time,” Maj Eakkachai Siri of the Phuket Tourist Police told The Phuket News today (July 23).
“But we have our plan to recover the Phoenix, I can guarantee you that 100%,” he added.
The confirmation by Maj Eakkachai today comes after a shroud of silence had fallen on the operation to raise the Phoenix since the flurry of daily reports on the efforts to recover the last body trapped on the seabed under the boat.
Once the last body was recovered, no news about raising the Phoenix or the ensuing investigation have been forthcoming – despite the Phoenix standing as the worst single-vessel maritime disaster in Thailand’s modern history.
Former Phuket Marine Chief Phuripat Teerakulpisut on July 11 explained how the Marine Department was working on a plan to raise the Phoenix.
Although now Director of Marine Office 3, Mr Phuripat has previously served as Phuket Marine Chief for more than 10 years, though under two periods. He left the island only in 2016. (See story here.)
“This operation needs care as not to damage the boat. It needs skilled people who are good at recovering boats, because the boat is lying at a depth of 45 metres, the recovering boat needs to use a 400-ton crane to lift the Phoenix straight and pump water out,” he said.
“This operation does not allow for anyone except officials and skilled staff. The equipment needed to recover the boat has not yet arrived. It might take 10 to 15 days to recover the boat, depending on the weather,” he added. (See story here.)
Meanwhile, Maj Eakkachai also confirmed to The Phuket News today that the registered owner of the Phoenix, Woralak Rerkchaikarn, 26, registered as living on Wichit Songkram Rd in Phuket Town, and the captain of the Phoenix, Somjing Boontham 50, registered as living in Moo 1, Rassada, have been transferred to Phuket Provincial Prison while being held on remand.
The Phuket Provincial Court had denied bail to Woralak and Somjing as both face charges of negligence causing death and serious injury, and causing danger to the body or mind, Maj Eakkachai said.
The court had initially held the two on remand at the detention cells at the court building.
However, construction engineer for the Phoenix, Onchan Kanhayote, 56, of Phetchabun Province, has been released on bail, he said.
Regarding the sinking of the Serenata tour boat, which sank off Koh Mai Thon in the same storm on July 5 but with all 41 people on board rescued, Maj Eakkachai today also confirmed that the captain, Metha Limsakul, 58, had also been released on bail.
Chinese national 26-year-old Pang Daxian, however, has not been so fortunate.
Pang, arrested just days after the incident for allegedly working as the manager of Lazy Cat Travel, which operated tours on the Serenata, remains incarcerated in the detention cells at Phuket Immigration.
Pang and Metha both face charges of negligence causing physical and mental harm to others.
The Serenata has been recovered and is now being held at Phuket Boat Lagoon pending further investigation, Maj Eakkachai confirmed.