Diving Safety Rules to be Enforced on Koh Tao After Briton Struck by Boat

Rescue workers bring a 20-year-old tourist who was struck by a boat turbine to a hospital on Koh Samui, 9 June 2015.

SURAT THANI — Authorities on the southern island of Koh Tao have promised to enforce safety regulations after a British tourist was severely injured by a boat’s propellers while she was diving off the coast of the island two days ago.

The boat’s rotor almost severed the 20-year-old woman’s leg, but rescue workers swiftly brought her to hospital on Koh Samui island, where she is now recovering.

The incident has spurred local police to inspect boat companies and diving instructors on the island to ensure that they are meeting safety standards and possess proper licenses, said Pol.Lt.Col. Thanakorn Pattananankaew, an officer of Tourism Police on the nearby Koh Samui island, which also oversees jurisdiction of Koh Tao. 

He also advised tourists to only dive with companies that are properly licensed, such as Scuba Shark, the outfit that the British tourist was with at the time. 

"That way, if unexpected incidents happen, the instructors can rescue you and solve the problems in time," said Pol.Lt.Col. Thanakorn.

The officer said he visited the tourist at the hospital today and was told she is in a safe and stable condition.

"They spent many hours operating on the bones in her leg," Pol.Lt.Col. Thanakorn told reporters.

Meanwhile, Pol.Lt.Col. Napha Senathip, an officer at Koh Tao Police Station, said Boonrord Klubnak, the 60-year-old driver of the boat who fled the scene after hitting the tourist, is now under arrest and being interrogated by police.

He said police are waiting to speak to the tourist and receive medical records about her injuries before formally charging Boonrord with a crime.

"Nevertheless, the driver confessed to the crime, and he is willing to compensate the victim because his boat has accident insurance," Pol.Lt.Col. Napha said.

Koh Tao is a popular diving spot for foreign tourists in the Gulf of Thailand. However, the idyllic resort island has made national news several times in the past year because of unusual deaths of foreigners.

In September 2014, two British tourists were found murdered on Sairee beach. Two Burmese migrant workers were arrested after a controversial police investigation, and are awaiting trial in prison on charges of rape and murder.

A Norwegian tourist was also killed near Koh Tao island in December 2014 after a boat turbine struck his head while he was diving in the sea. 

Speaking to reporters today, the island’s mayor said he does not think the latest incident will affect tourism, but vowed to tighten safety measures. 

"The boat owner has already taken his responsibility for what happened," said Chaiyan Thurasakul. "As for measures to guarantee safety for divers and tourists, we will hold a meeting to find ways to take care of their lives and properties. Once we have conclusions, we will impose them on all diving instructors, in order to prevent this kind of incident from happening to tourists ever again."

 

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