Tragedy struck on the last day of 2023 when a speedboat carrying seven Russian tourists, including a five year old girl, crashed into rocks at Koh Maithon while returning to Phuket from Phi Phi Island. The young girl, Liza Pak, sadly lost her life in the incident.
The speedboat, named Apirak 89, was believed to be leaving Koh Maithon and heading south when it met the catastrophic accident around 3:30pm. Koh Maithon, a small island situated over eight kilometres southeast of Cape Panwa’s tip, is a favoured stopover for tourists.
Apirak 89, a dual-engine fibreglass speedboat, measured three metres wide and 11 metres long. The boat’s captain, Natthaphong Kongwilai, and helmsman Preecha Soison were also aboard when the incident occurred. The Phuket Marine Office confirmed the presence of both seamen on board.
In response to the accident, two speedboats were dispatched to rescue the passengers and crew, ferrying them back to Chalong Pier where emergency responders were ready and waiting. Three injured individuals were each taken to Dibuk Hospital, Vachira Phuket Hospital, and Chalong Hospital.
The girl’s grandmother, Emma, suffered arm injuries but was discharged after treatment. Another passenger, Pak Petr, sustained serious injuries and remains in critical care at Dibuk Hospital. Capt Natthaphong, aged 41, is unconscious and on life support at Vachira Phuket Hospital after sustaining a severe cut on his left cheek.
Marine officials inspected the damaged boat lodged against the rocks and noted there were no oil leaks. Despite the evident damage to the hull, the boat’s license was found to be valid.
In a show of solidarity, leading Phuket officials, including the Tourist Police and officers from the Tourist Assistance Center (TAC), visited Vachira Phuket Hospital to offer support to the injured and their families. The tragic incident mars the Seven Days of Family Happiness safety campaign for the New Year, rebranded from the traditional Seven Days of Danger campaign.
Earlier in the day, Phuket Governor Sophon Suwannarat had led a group of officials in inspecting Chalong Pier, a key pier in Phuket under the Phuket Smart Pier system. The inspection aimed to reassure the public of the safety measures in place, particularly in light of the New Year festivities. The tragic accident serves as a stark reminder of the utmost importance of safety, especially amid celebrations and holidays.