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Phuket Thailand Tourist Lost in Surf at Freedom Beach: Second French Drowning Feared

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  • Phuket Thailand Tourist Lost in Surf at Freedom Beach: Second French Drowning Feared

    PHUKET: A French tourist is missing, presumed drowned after disappearing in surf at Phuket's Freedom Beach this afternoon.

    The man, aged 32 and staying on Phuket with six friends, vanished around 3pm, Phuket police have been told.

    If the man turns out to have drowned, it will be the second drowning at Phuket beaches in three days - and both victims are French.

    Frenchman Angelo Piazza, 53, died in Patong Hospital after being pulled from the surf at Karon, south of Patong, on Friday. Several other swimmers needed rescuing.

    Beach vendors had to substitute for lifeguards, who have not patrolled Phuket's most popular beaches since April 7 because of contract negotiations and a tendering process.

    But lifeguards do not in any case usually patrol Freedom Beach, close to Patong. It's one of the more difficult beaches on Phuket to access and people usually traverse a rough track or travel there by longtail boat.

    Meanwhile, Paiboon Upatising, President of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organsiation, told Phuketwan yesterday that he hoped a new contract would be signed in time for the Phuket Lifeguard Service to resume beach patrols from Tuesday.

    The Phuket Lifeguard Service is a privately-owned company that replaced the Phuket Lifeguard Club some time ago as service providers. Former office-bearers in the club now run the company.

    Khun Paiboon reiterated that the tendering process had twice been opened for submissions but there were no takers. That meant the administrative organisation could invite the Phuket Lifeguard Service to take on the role.

    According to Khun Paiboon, the administrative organisation has to seek tenders and follow due process or it would be in breach of the law.

    Water safety experts, however, point out that lifeguards on a year-round beach holiday destination are in a similar category to police and firemen and need to be on the beaches every day.

    The same problem was experienced last year. Drownings do also occur when lifeguards are on patrol but to not have lifeguards on beaches at the most dangerous time of the year - the monsoon season - is considered by many to be unacceptable.

    Once the contract is signed - and the Phuket Lifeguard Service still has some reservations about the worn-out equipment being provided by the administrative organisation - 13 of Phuket's west coast beaches will be protected by 106 lifeguards.

    The service is considered to have improved the numbers of rescues, standards and training from the time a few years ago when lifeguards could usually be found asleep in the now-obsolete guard towers.

    If Freedom Beach grows more popular, as appears to be happening, it should probably also be included among the Phuket beaches protected by lifeguards.

    The beach has made the news recently for other reasons. Officials believe large plots of land on the Freedom Beach shorefront have been corruptly acquired by a businessman seeking to sell the property for resort development and a profit of billions of baht.

    Today's search for the missing man, who was staying with his friends at the Brother Guesthouse in Patong, is expected to resume at daylight on Monday.

    Phuketwan has his name but will not publish it until relatives in France have been notified.

    Given the two latest beach drownings are French, it may be that the French Ambassador is the appropriate person to seek a change in Thai law so that lifeguards can always be on Phuket beaches and Phuket can be considered a safe year-round beach holiday destination.

    Warnings to tourists who come to Phuket for beach holidays during the dangerous monsoon season, when surf is heavier and perilous unseen rips develop at some beaches, do not appear to be adequate.