Big hole found in hull of salvaged tour boat

Big hole found in hull of salvaged tour boat

Officials examine the staved in hull of the ill-fated tourist boat at Si Charoen dry dock in Ayutthaya province on Wednesday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)
Officials examine the staved in hull of the ill-fated tourist boat at Si Charoen dry dock in Ayutthaya province on Wednesday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)

AYUTTHAYA - The Marine Department is placing blame on the helmsman for the sinking of a Chao Phraya ferry boat and drowning of 28 passengers after a big hole was found in the salvaged vessel's hull.

Withaya Yamoung, director of the Marine Office 2 in Ayutthaya province, said on Wednesday the size of the hole in the Sombat Mongkolchai Tabtim's hull clearly showed it hit hard against a solid submerged object and testified to the driver's recklessness.

The double-deck boat was overloaded and accelerating to overtake a sand barge at a curve in the river, he said.

The driver was attempting to pass on the righthand side of the barge, where there was only a small clearance to the bank. The current and waves had pushed the boat hard towards the bank and the driver lost control, the marine director said.

The ferry hit a concrete embankment that was 32 metres long and three metres wide on the riverbank at Wat Sanam Chai in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district. The rupture to the right side of the hull was 9.60 metres long.

The tourist boat was raised from the riverbed and towed to a local shipyard on Wednesday for examination. Inspectors reported the hole stretched along one-third of the 27.5-metre-long boat, which rapidly filled with water and sank.

The boat was licensed to carry 50 passengers but was actually carrying more than 100 Muslims returning home to Nonthaburi province from an annual pilgrimage to Ayutthaya province when it hit the embankment on Sunday afternoon.

Nat Chubchai, deputy director-general of the Marine Department, said the investigation into the incident would be concluded in 10 days.

Apart from the condition of the boat and the behaviour of the driver, the department would also check if the embankment with its one-metre submerged base at Wat Sanam Chai was properly designed and built.

Wirach Chaisirikul, the 67-year-old boat driver, has denied he was being reckless. Police charged him with recklessness causing death, operating an overloaded boat, and having an expired boat licence.

The salvaged boat at the Si Charoen Dock, about three kilometres from river embankment where it sank, in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district on Wednesday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)


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