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Two dive instructors charged over death of tourist off Phuket

PHUKET: Police from Phi Phi Island have today confirmed that two dive instructors have been charged with negligence over the death of Indian tourist Alok Kumar Shukla, who drowned during his first ever scuba diving trip on Sunday (Dec 31).

By Shela Riva

Thursday 4 January 2018, 04:47PM

The incident took place off Phi phi Island on Sunday during Mr Shukla's very first attempt at scuba diving. Photo: Diego Delso

The incident took place off Phi phi Island on Sunday during Mr Shukla's very first attempt at scuba diving. Photo: Diego Delso

“We have charged two of the diving instructors present when the incident occurred with negligence,” Lt Kanakorn Tamakhan of Phi Phi Island police told The Phuket News today (Jan 4).

“Mr Shukla had not taken off his diving weights, which weighed about 4 kilograms, when the incident took place. However, we can confirm that he had taken off his equipment,” he said.

“A large wave caused the boat to rock, this caused Mr Shukla to fall into the water and drown due to the weights. Although those who saw him fall jumped into the water after him, the water was very deep and it took a while to find him,” he explained.

“The hospital has already conducted a preliminary examination of the body, however, we are still waiting for results an internal examination to confirm that he died of drowning. That is where the case is currently at,” he said.

Lt Kanakorn declined to name the two instructors charged.

“I am not at the station, please call me back later. I am in the middle of something now,” he said.

Georg Kereit, manager of the dive company involved, which he asked not to be named, told The Phuket News, “We would like to express our deepest condolences to family and friends of Mr Shukla, and I can confirm that we are working close with police to manage this terrible accident.

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“When the incident occurred the customer had returned to the boat and taken off his equipment. He was about to take off the weight belt when he fell overboard. Three people jumped in after him but could not locate him on the choppy surface, so the three people went with scuba gear to find him,” said Mr Kereit.

“CPR was provided immediately the body had been removed from the water and put on the boat, he was then given oxygen before being handed over to the hospital,” he added.

“It is standard practice in scuba diving that when you get out of the water you go to a spot where your can sit down and your scuba cylinder will be secure.

“You then loosen shoulder and waist straps and get out of the unit. The next step is to stand up and remove your weight belt. After that you can get out of your wet suit,” he said.

“So procedure wise, it was normal. It was in this impossible five second window while removing his weight belt that he fell,” he added.

In response to whether any regulations would be amended following the incident, Mr Kereit said, “We need to see with the owner if further railings will be installed to limit the possible exits, and non-certified divers will probably not be allowed to sit on the outside facing side of the boat.”



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Jor12 | 07 January 2018 - 11:49:30

It is clear from the article that the Police Investigation indicated that "Mr Shukla had not taken off his diving weights, which weighed about 4 kilograms, when the incident took place." So it's a demonstrable fact, not a whim made up by Police as suggested by a commentator. 

bbear1234 | 07 January 2018 - 01:41:03

A tragic accident, no more no less! Curious as to why first dive is in open water though???

All these comments from know it all's about taking weight belt off before leaving the water. I completed both the PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water within the last year and PADI does NOT mandate you to remove weight belt before leaving the water.

Bart Hettema | 05 January 2018 - 15:45:31

Belt off in the water, then gear off and then climb aboard. Diving skills are a must. If someone can't swim with 4kg's of weights on then they can't swim at all. First time diver in deep water obviously the instructors are at fault as it should be a shallow dive of max 14 meter's. It takes less than 5 seconds to respond if they are instructors with Rescue under their belts.

malczx7r | 05 January 2018 - 13:26:14

Once again the police showing how little they know, weight belt off first!

Dongwong | 05 January 2018 - 10:16:24

What planet did this guy get his diving license.  With almost 1,000 dives on the record I have never, ever got onto a boat with my weight belt on.  That is dangerous and unsafe. 

Web search today:

After you take your weight off proceed to get in the boat.  University of Santa Barbara edu

Hand up your weights first.  SportsDiver Magazine

Remember to remove your weight belt first.  Padi

CaptainJack69 | 05 January 2018 - 08:55:02

Standard procedure my a**e. Your weights are the first thing you take off. That's day one lesson one. If there isn't space to do it on the boat then you take them off BEFORE you get out of the water.

These 'instructors' are wrong and so is their company. That all remain anonymous clearly suggests misconduct by the police as well. So business as usual then :)

Kurt | 05 January 2018 - 00:20:48

Before mr Shukla's first dive trip he must have done the dive course pool sessions, he did learn how to unbuckle the weight belt..
I never, as Padi Master Scuba diver, doing many live aboard dive trips, heard about such a incident.
Falling in the water you know how to release the weight belt. You learned that during previous pool sessions.
To me it seems quite premature to charge 2(!) dive ...

Wiesel | 05 January 2018 - 00:04:10

special take care :-(

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