Phuket boat accident: Chinese family's only surviving member tells harrowing story of tragedy

Phuket boat accident: Chinese family's only surviving member tells harrowing story of tragedy
A young survivor of the boat tragedy in Thailand is carried into Haining People's Hospital in Haining, Zhejiang province, for a follow-up medical check.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

PHUKET - Mr Zheng Lancheng - the sole member of one family to survive a tour boat sinking in waters off Thailand last week - sits in a chair with a bag in his hand. Inside are clothes for his dead wife, daughter, son-in-law and 18-month-old granddaughter, whose bodies are in a morgue.

Along with his granddaughter's clothing is a table tennis ball, which was her favourite toy when she was alive.

Last Thursday (July 5), five family members were on one of two boats carrying a total of 127 Chinese tourists. The boats capsized in a violent storm near the southern resort island of Phuket late that afternoon.

Of the Chinese tourists, 41 were confirmed dead. Others remained missing, although 78 were rescued, according to the Chinese embassy in Thailand.

"My son-in-law didn't like travelling, and I had been to Thailand in 2014, so we two were reluctant to go at first. But my daughter persuaded my son-in-law and I was persuaded by my wife, which led to this trip happening," Mr Zheng was quoted as saying by Meiri Renwu, a WeChat account operated by Boya Tianxia Media Group in Beijing.

At noon last Thursday, the family spent some time having fun on two islands and got back on the boat at around 4pm, together with other tourists.

The sky darkened about 10 minutes after the boat left the pier, but Mr Zheng didn't worry too much.

Half an hour later, the boat started shaking violently. He asked somebody where they were and found out that the boat had been in the same spot for the past half-hour.

Suddenly, the boat began listing heavily and he heard someone yell "Get out"! He quickly pulled his wife to the side of the vessel without thinking too much.

"It was rocking crazily and my wife fell down. Her knee started bleeding and I was in a panic," Mr Zheng said. "When we were about to jump overboard, she said 'Don't drag me' because of her injured knee and I said 'OK'. All of a sudden, the boat turned flipped over and I was in the sea."

"I could never imagine that the conversation was the last words between us. I grabbed a rope after I fell into the water, and when I raised up my head to look for my wife, the whole boat was missing."

About 20 tourists, including Mr Zheng, eventually climbed aboard a rubber raft.

"There were no words between any of us in the rubber boat. All of us were stunned. We could only hear the sounds of the sea."

Mr Zheng said if they had known there would be a big rubber boat floating around after their boat sank, they might have first put on life vests and jumped in the vicinity to be saved.

READ ALSO: Man lauded for rescuing four, drifts on sea for 12 hours

"However, we knew nothing about it. No one gave us any warnings or guidance," he said.

Mr Zheng said it is a tradition in his hometown that deceased children be dressed in long sleeves and trousers. He has prepared full sets of clothes for each of his family members who died in the tragic accident.

"I don't know what to do now. I can only wait in Thailand, dealing with their final arrangements."

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDED CONTENT

SPONSORED CONTENT

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.