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Search for Phoenix dead is over: last body found near Phi Phi Island

PHUKET: Officials have reported that the last body sought as still missing from the Phoenix tour boat disaster last Thursday was found today (July 11).

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By The Phuket News

Wednesday 11 July 2018, 09:02PM


Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong confirmed the news at the Disaster Command Centre set up at the Phuket Marine Office at Chalong Pier late this afternoon. Photo: PR Dept

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong confirmed the news at the Disaster Command Centre set up at the Phuket Marine Office at Chalong Pier late this afternoon. Photo: PR Dept

The body was found by search teams near Phi Phi Island at about 2pm, and reported as confirmed at the Disaster Command Centre set up at the Phuket Marine Office at Chalong Pier by Rear Admiral Jaroenphon Khumrasee, Deputy Commander of the Royal Thai Naval Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa on Phuket’s east coast, at 5pm.

R/Adm Jaroenphon credited finding the body to the search area determined by the Hydrographics Department of the Royal Thai Navy calculated through their understanding of the prevailing wind, current and wave patterns.

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong, as chief of the Disaster Command Centre, explained that a bag containing Chinese Yuan banknotes was found nearby, as well as a life jacket.

“We believe the body is from the Phoenix, but the identity has yet to be verified,” he said cautiously.

The body discovered today brings the total number of bodies recovered from the disaster area to 46, officials announced today.

With 42 people surviving the calamity and one body confirmed still trapped under the Phoenix lying on the seabed, the find today accounts for all 89 people believed to be have been on board the Phoenix when it sank since officials revised that number on Monday (July 9). (See story here.)

RAISE THE PHOENIX

R/Adm Jaroenphon explained that attempts to raise the Phoenix enough to recover the body trapped underneath – today confirmed to be that of a male, dressed in jeans – were suspended due to the weather, which made the operation dangerous.

“We plan to try again tomorrow,” he said.

Present at the press briefing at the Disaster Command Centre earlier today was former Phuket Marine Chief Phuripat Teerakulpisut, now Director of Marine Office 3.

Mr Phuriphat explained that he had been assigned by the Marine Department Director-General to take care of the aspects of the Phoenix disaster relevant to the Marine Department.

With an ongoing investigation launched by Tourist Police deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpan into how the Phoenix came to be registered while reportedly not passing safety standards, his role may become pertinent.

Gen Surachet has launched the investigation acting on a direct order from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to prosecute “people in the private sector and also government officials”. (See story here)

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.)

Regardless, Mr Phuripat today explained how the Marine Department was working on a plan to raise the Phoenix.

“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.

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“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.

FINAL FAREWELLS

Governor Norraphat earlier today also confirmed that of the 42 survivors, 10 have returned home while one remains in care at Phuket Provincial Hospital in Rassada and another remains in care at Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town.

Of the 46 bodies, 43 have been identified. Two are waiting for DNA test confirmation, he added.

Following a mass Buddhist prayer at Chalong Pier this morning to bring peace to the souls of the departed (see story here), five of the victims were cremated in Phuket yesterday with another 11 cremated today. More were expected to follow.

Meanwhile, religious ceremonies are being held at nine temples across the island for the relatives of victims for seven days.

LOOSE ENDS

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teerapong Thipjareon explained yesterday (July 10) that his officers co-operating in the investigation into the two tour companies that operated tours on the Phoenix and on the Serenata, which sank off Koh Mai Thon in the same storm last Thursday. All 41 people on board the Serenata were later safely rescued.

“We need to find evidence to find the truth about whether the companies are legal and their services are standard or not. All the documents will be sent to Forensic Police, and police will then report to inspectors to use documents as evidence in legal proceedings,” he said.

“The witness investigation has been ongoing, which is the desire of the Thai and Chinese governments to find the real cause of incident,” he added.

Governor Nopparat today noted that all the rescue and recovery operations since the disaster occurred last Thursday saw private and government sectors join together to help.

He thanked fishermen and other boats from local organisations, including the local fishing fleet and the local dive industry.

He also thanked to Pichai Fishing Pier and the Pibul Fishing Pier for allowing rescue workers to use their facilities for transporting victims to hospital.

“I would also like to thank all the volunteer divers and boat companies that came to help us with search” he said.

“Phuket will recognise your deeds with a shield of commendation as a ‘thank you’. In addition, Thai officials thank the Chinese Government, the China Consul and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand for providing rescue divers,” he concluded.

 

 

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