20 injured in speedboat collision

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The vessel the Kor Nongmai 7 (left) suffered a gaping hole in its side during a crash with the Khemthong (right), which sustained only minor damage to its bow. Tourism Ministry officials are again promising stricter regulations after 18 South Korean tourists, 1 Korean guide and 1 Thai guide were injured, five seriously, when two speedboats collided off Koh Larn.

Officials again promise safety crackdown after 19 Koreans and 1 Thai injured in speedboat collision

Tourism Ministry officials are again promising stricter regulations after 18 South Korean tourists, 1 Korean guide and 1 Thai guide were injured when two speedboats collided off Koh Larn.

Visiting two critically injured tourists at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya April 21, Tourism & Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said he plans to introduce legislation at the next Cabinet meeting to restrict the operations of tourist-boat operators and set up a compensation fund for injured tourists.

The vessel the Kor Nongmai 7 (left) suffered a gaping hole in its side during a crash with the Khemthong (right), which sustained only minor damage to its bow. Tourism Ministry officials are again promising stricter regulations after 18 South Korean tourists, 1 Korean guide and 1 Thai guide were injured, five seriously, when two speedboats collided off Koh Larn.The vessel the Kor Nongmai 7 (left) suffered a gaping hole in its side during a crash with the Khemthong (right), which sustained only minor damage to its bow. Tourism Ministry officials are again promising stricter regulations after 18 South Korean tourists, 1 Korean guide and 1 Thai guide were injured, five seriously, when two speedboats collided off Koh Larn.

Gih Wa Hong, 63, lost part of a leg and Myung Bae Kim, 51, suffered two broken legs in the April 20 accident 800 meters off Koh Larn’s Tawaen Beach. The two men and 3 other Koreans were taken to Bangkok Hospital Pattaya.  The 3 others were treated and released.

Fifteen others, including 3 seriously injured, were taken to Pattaya Memorial Hospital.  Thirteen were treated and released. The 3 serious injuries included an 8-year-old Korean boy.

“I express my sincere apologies to the victims and their families,” the minister said, announcing each victim will be awarded 300,000 baht in compensation. “This visit is to take responsibility as a representative of the government. We will work with the Ministry of Transport to create guidelines and measures to maintain security and help the difficulties of tourists. These laws will limit the operations of the boat owners and will be strictly enforced.”

Rescue workers bring in Gih Wa Hong, 63, who lost part of his leg in the accident.Rescue workers bring in Gih Wa Hong, 63, who lost part of his leg in the accident.

Twenty-eight South Korean tourists were traveling to Koh Larn as part of a tour when the Sor Khemthong, driven by Amnuay Kladkhemthong, collided with the fully loaded Kor Nongmai 7, driven by Rung-arun Homlamduan. Witnesses gave conflicting reports as to which boat was responsible, but the Kor Nongmai 7 suffered a gaping hole in its side while the Khemthong sustained only minor damage to its bow. Some claimed the loaded boat hit the less-damaged boat as it was parked to take on fuel.

Both drivers fled the scene, swimming to shore, leaving the injured tourists in the water to wait for rescue personnel. Reports at press time claimed one or both of the drivers had either surrendered or contacted police to turn themselves in.

The incident again has shone a harsh spotlight on Pattaya’s appalling record of marine safety, which has been punctuated by numerous accidents and injuries, with some fatalities over the past several years. After each incident, politicians promise safety crackdowns and increased inspections only to have similar incidents reoccur within months.

Chonburi Gov. Khomsan Ekachai, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, and Marine Department bureaucrats visited the injured at Pattaya Memorial Hospital to offer their own apologies and 40,000 baht from the city’s Tourist Assistance Fund.

The governor assured victims that politicians have not sat idle in pursuing the fugitive boat drivers or safety concerns. He promised to have the drivers make their own apologies in person to the injured and their families.

“Even though we can’t predict accidents, there still needs to be an upgrade in the protection system for boat voyages at sea,” Khomsan said. “Relevant officers have been instructed to increase their strictness in inspecting the standard of all aspects of boat travel, including calling a meeting with the operators on standards, life vests, captaining and boat routes.”

Pattaya-region Marine Office Director Raewat Potriang said both boat operators possessed valid licenses, which now have now been revoked.  All tourists were wearing life vests at the time of the accident.

He added that a meeting will soon address zoning for swimming, boat parking and water sports. While promising to do so since April 2010, officials again claimed they will finally implement marked entrance and exit routes at area beaches.

The politicians’ platitudes did little to assuage the anger of Gih’s wife, who lambasted Pattaya authorities for their slow response to the accident and for marine-safety standards she said lag far behind South Korea’s. The woman became so distraught that she collapsed and had to be admitted to the hospital herself.

Bangkok Hospital Pattaya Deputy Director Supakorn Winnawan said doctors had to amputate what remained of Gih’s left leg just below the knee and placed a cast on the broken right leg. He also needed a transfusion of six units of blood. Myung, meanwhile, had steel rods inserted during surgery to repair both his broken legs.