Panel to probe cause of Surat Thani ferry sinking
SURAT THANI: The Marine Department has set up a panel to determine how a ferry headed to Don Sak Pier from Koh Samui capsized during a storm on Saturday.
Witthaya Yamuang, director-general of the Marine Department, said on Sunday the Raja 4 capsized as it made its way from the resort island back to the mainland. He said the report will be released in 15 days.
He said if the panel finds the sinking to be caused by a fault on the ferry operator's part, those involved will face up to six months imprisonment and fines not exceeding 20,000 baht.
Twelve of the 16 passengers on board were employees of Raja Ferry.
The four others were drivers of the three lorries and the pick-up.
Seven people were initially reported missing, but Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto announced that two people were rescued from the water on Sunday and that the ferry skipper's body has been found -- leaving four still unaccounted for.
The Raja 4, operated by Raja Ferry Plc, was loaded with garbage, three 10-wheeled lorries and a pick-up truck when it sank about 2 nautical miles off Koh Samui, where it ran into the storm.
The vessel was hit by high waves and capsized at about 10pm, just as it passed between Koh 4 and Koh 5.
A rescue operation centre was set up on Koh Samui, with Mr Wichawut as director. Mr Pachara, a survivor, said he drifted in the sea for two or three hours, kept afloat by a rubber buoy. He drifted towards Koh Taen, where he was helped by islanders.
Meanwhile, a passenger boat capsized in the Chao Phraya River. All 60 passengers and crew were rescued. Authorities were still looking into the cause on Sunday night.