Niphat ‘Joch’ Kludnak, 37,an employee of Spitz Tech Co Ltd, died after passing out and failling into the water from the back of the salvage boat on Sept 29.
Phuket Public Relations Department Chief Bussaya Chaipeum issued a statement three days later (Oct 2), stating that Mr Niphat died at 12:30pm on Sept 29 at the site where the sunken Phoenix lies on the seabed.
Mr Niphat had been involved in the salvage mission since it began in August.
According to the statement issued by Ms Bussaya, Mr Niphat was on the rear of a vessel being used in the salvage operation when he fainted and fell into the sea.
Mr Niphat was recovered unconscious from the water and was quickly taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town where he was later pronounced dead. (See story here.)
Wiwat Chitchertwong, Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office, was dismissive of any questions about Mr Niphat’s death asked by The Phuket News today (Oct 11) – despite the fact that Spitz Tech has been hired by the Marine Dept to carry out the salvage.
“I have no idea about this. Please contact the Chalong Police,” was all he would say.
Capt Somkiet Sarasit of the Chalong Police, who is conducting the investigation into Mr Niphat’s death, was more a little more forthcoming in his responses.
“The cause of the death was a ‘lack of oxygen’, as confirmed by Vachira Hospital,” Capt Somkiet said, though not willing to give a further explanation of how Mr Niphat came to suffer the lack of oxygen.
Capt Somkiet did confirm that Mr Niphat was a diver on the salvage team.
“He was working with six other drivers,” he said.
However, he added duing the brief phone interview today, “I believe that the cause of death was related to his (Mr Niphat’s) personal health.”
Capt Somkiet did not explain whether or not he thought Mr Niphat died due to poor work practices or the result of any form of negligence, but did say, “I have not pressed any charges against the company. My investigation so far has not revealed any evidence of wrong doing.”
Asked has anything been done to prevent other people from suffering the same death, Capt Somkiet said, “I warned the company about safety before allowing it to continue its salvage operation – especially regarding drivers’ health. It is very important to check and make sure they (divers) are fit to work.”
The Phoenix tour boat sank in a storm on July 5, killing 47 Chinese tourists and sending the Phoenix to the seabed 45 metres below the water’s surface some 1.5 nautical miles off Koh Hei (Coral Island),
The boat now lies at an unreported depth some 400 metres from where it sank after a tether broke during an attempt to drag the stricken vessel – while still underwater – to an area where the water depth was around 25 metres, where the boat would then be raised to the surface.
That plan has now been scrapped. (See story here.)