Family in China say relatives sent Thai boat's last moments

2018-07-08 08:43
A Thai Navy divers in Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for the 12 boys and their football team coach trapped in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province. (Handout, Royal Thai Navy, AFP)

A Thai Navy divers in Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for the 12 boys and their football team coach trapped in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province. (Handout, Royal Thai Navy, AFP)

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Phuket — The boat lists hard to the right, sending a man tumbling across an aisle toward windows that look almost straight down on fast-moving white-capped waves. Another man catches him and appears to laugh nervously. A woman cries out. Someone else adjusts the child they are holding tightly in their lap.

The 10 second video captures the chaotic final moments of the Phoenix dive boat before it capsized and sank on Thursday off the coast of the Thai resort of Phuket. The maritime disaster has claimed 41 lives, including the woman who sent the clip to her family in China and at least one of her two children.

"It's shaking violently, and I'm feeling very dizzy," Chen De Qiong, 47, wrote to her family's WeChat group just before the accident. "I want to go ashore immediately," she said in another message, adding that her 12-year-old son was feeling ill.

Her family, who shared the video with The Associated Press, is now demanding "justice" from Thai authorities. Her sister, Chen Wei, a businesswoman from China's Chongqing province, said the disaster was caused by human error and could have been avoided, noting that passengers in the video were not wearing life vests.

The boat was carrying 105 people, including 93 tourists, most of them from China, when it capsized after it was hit by 5-meter waves. As of Sunday morning, 14 people were still missing.

Chen De Qiong, a doctor, arrived in Phuket on July 1 for a long-planned vacation with her son and 21-year-old daughter. Her husband, Xing Yong, who is also a doctor, stayed behind in China as he was busy with work.

"I can hear the voice of my daughter screaming," Xing Yong said on Saturday while transiting at Kuala Lumpur airport on his way to Phuket, as he showed the video to an AP reporter. "You can see that nobody wore life jackets."

The body of the daughter, Xing Yu Jie, was recovered on Friday.

Once they arrived in Phuket on Saturday, Chen's sister and husband identified Chen's body at a hospital it had been taken to after being recovered earlier in the day. The son, Xing Hao Ran, was among the missing.

Chen Wei said the boat company ignored warnings of bad weather and failed to take adequate measures to ensure passenger safety. She said the video showed that glass windows in the boat cabin were sealed but they should have had latches so that they can be opened to allow passengers to swim out in an emergency.

Despite rough waves, the boat didn't stop and kept sailing, Chen Wei said.

"Three out of a family with four members gone. How would you feel about it? Which family can bear such a blow?" she said.

"There are loopholes everywhere that caused this tragedy," she said.

"I just want to seek justice for my family. This is not a natural disaster. This tragedy is man-made and could have been avoided," she added.

She said the vacation was planned as a celebration for her niece, who had just graduated from university, and her nephew, who is about to enter high school.

"A beautiful family gone like that, just like in a dream," a distraught Chen said.

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