Experts from China and Germany who inspected the retrieved twin-decked cruise boat, the Phoenix, which capsized in a storm off Phuket on July 5, resulting in the deaths of 47 Chinese tourists, have given opinions that the vessel was substandard, Immigration Bureau chief Maj-General Surachate Hakparn said on Tuesday.
The Phoenix had been carrying 101 people – 89 Chinese tourists and 12 crew – for snorkelling at a small island at the time of the disaster.
Given the experts’ analysis, police should be able to conclude their case next week and the available evidence could lead to charges being filed against more senior officials, Surachate said.
Previously, an official at the Phuket Marine Office was hit with the charge of a state official omitting to exercise any of his functions, while a charge of recklessness causing death was filed against several people, including Phoenix boat captain Somjing Boontham, 50, and TC Blue Dream Co executive and boat owner Woralak Rerkchaikarn, 26.
The case’s most important evidence – the Phoenix itself – was retrieved from a spot 45 metres below the surface to be stored at Phuket’s Rattanachai Shipyard for detailed inspection by forensic police officers, as well as by boat-assembly experts from Germany and China, Surachate said, revealing that the experts’ analysis had deemed the boat substandard – deemed a key contributing factor to the vessel’s sinking.
“The boat’s assembly was substandard, which resulted in the use of concrete to maintain its balance, while a boat this size should have four watertight doors, but the Phoenix only had one. In addition, its glass windows were not marine-bonded, hence many of the deceased were trapped inside, while the boat’s engine was that of a 10-wheel truck instead of a yacht engine,” the immigration chief said.
The experts’ findings were in line with the Phoenix’s blueprint and the police probe results so far, he added.
Police have now contacted the Consular Office of the Embassy of China in Thailand to invite them to a press conference to announce the closure of the police’s case next week, Surachate said.
He offered his comments in his capacity as a member of the police investigation team into the incident, which was led by the national police deputy commissioner, Pol General Rungroj Sangkram.