(Updated 9:20 p.m.) – One person is confirmed dead and four missing after a ferry carrying garbage trucks and drivers from Koh Samui capsized and sank in stormy seas late Saturday.
Surat Thani Province’s public-relations department said Sunday afternoon that two bodies had been recovered, but that report was corrected later, with only the captain of the Racha Ferry Co. No. 4 barge, Tewin Surat, confirmed dead.
Eleven of the 16 crewmembers and passengers aboard were rescued while marine police, volunteer rescue foundations, fishing boats and district vessels will continue searching Monday. Helicopters used Sunday afternoon had to be sent back to base due to bad weather.
The accident occurred before 10:30 p.m. Saturday between Koh Si and Koh Hah, about five nautical miles from Koh Samui’s main pier.
Trouble began after 9:30 p.m. – about 30 minutes after the Samui pier for Don Sak District of Surat Thani Province with a load of garbage trucks and drivers – when the captain radioed the pier’s traffic-control center to report that the vessel was listing heavily.
Apichat Chayopas, managing director of Raja Ferry Port, said he immediately ordered two of the company’s boats to head to the location
But 10 minutes later radio contact was lost and rescue vessels were dispatched. By the time help arrived the boat had already sunk and nine people were pulled from the sea.
Koh Samui marine police said a search was conducted in the dark, but neither the ship nor any other crew members could be found.
The Royal Thai Police told a media briefing this morning that the ferry was carrying 18 people (12 crew and six passengers), garbage, three garbage trailer trucks and a pickup truck when it was hit by wind-whipped waves. The Thai Meteorological Department had warned ships to stay ashore in the lower Gulf of Thailand this weekend due to swells of up to three meters.
Earlier reports – including a list of passengers released by Surat Thani’s public relations department – indicated there were more vehicles and fewer people aboard. The crew and passenger manifest named 16 people while the RTP spokesman said there were 18 without naming the additional two. Surat Thani this afternoon continued to maintain there were only 16 people.
Apichat apologized for the accident and pledged that rescue and recovery efforts would continue to find the missing. The company also promised to salvage the ferry, which may contain the bodies of some crewmembers.