Two of the bodies were found yesterday, Governor Norraphat said, adding that a third was found washed up on a beach at Phi Phi Island this morning.
The Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command dispatched a boat to recover the body, he said.
Although officials had yet to confirm that the bodies were from the Phoenix disaster, Governor Norraphat said officialbelieved it was likely as they were found within the search area as determined the Hydrographics Department of the Royal Thai Navy.
Governor Norraphat also explained that of the five people who officials only recently discovered were not on the Phoenix at the time it sank in a strong storm squall, but were listed as having boarded the vessel, three of them had already travelled “back to their home country” while the two others were waiting for their flight home.
The three bodies recovered and confirmation that the five in question were safe left only three more people unaccounted for, he said.
Regarding recovering the body still trapped under the Phoenix, on the sea bed some 1.5 nautical miles from Koh Hei (Coral Island), it was reported today that officials were waiting for the appropriate weather before proceedng with their operation.
Divers from Thai Navy and China will help each other to analyse the situation, the press was told at the announcement today.
Meanwhile, Phuket Public Health Office Chief Dr Jirapan Taepan said that 37 of the bodies recovered so far had been identified, 33 of them by relatives. To date, 32 of the bodies had been issued death certificates, and 26 of the bodies are ready for relatives to claim.
Provincial Police Region 8 Chief Gen Sorasak Yenprem told the press that the Phoenix captain, Somjing Boontham, is currently being detained at Phuket Provincial Prison following his charge of recklessness causing death.
Of Metha Limsakul, the 58-year-old captain of the Serenata, which sank off Koh Mai Thon in the same storm last Thursday but with all 41 people on board rescued, Gen Sorsak re-confirmed that the captain had been charged but police were still “gathering additional evidence” against him.
It was not clarified whether or not Metha was being detained while in the investigation continued.
Gen Sorasak did volunteer that the “Chinese boat manager” had been taken into custody and is being held at Phuket Immigration for “processing”, thnough only repeating what Tourist Police deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Surachet “Big Joke” Hakpan announced last night (see here).
Regardless, both Gen Sorasak and Gen Surachet have yet to make public the names of the people arrested on that front, which amounts to charges for operating a nominee company in Thailand.
Regarding the two Russians who were rescued after they were caught in the storm while riding a jet-ski off Koh Racha, Gen Sorsak was happy to report that the jet-ski owner, apparently a Russian, confessed and was fined B1,000, presumably for allowing the jet-ski to be rented in unsafe conditions and/or in an act that likely endangered people’s lives.
Throughout the endless press conferences and official statements since the disaster last Thursday, officials never named the Russians rescued. Instead, they were identified as “from Europe” in official statements, despite the the Russian Embassy itself confirming last Friday (July 6) that the couple rescued were Ilya Goldman and Elena Volkova, ages not specified.
They were some 15 kilometres offshore when they were picked up by a fishing boat. (See Russian Embassy report here.)
Of the two Russians that were initially, consistently reported by officials as missing from the Phoenix, Thai officials have made no mention whether the two are alive, dead or still missing – or if they were actually the two from Koh Racha who were accidentally reported initially as missing from the Phoenix.
In closing the press conference today, officials noted that witness statements had been taken from some 50 people as the investigation into the accident continues.