11 July 2024

The ill-fated HTMS Sukhothai set sail into rough seas heading for Chumphon on December 18th without its chief engineer, Vice Admiral Pichai Lorchusakul, commander of the First Naval Area Command, told the media on yesterday (Saturday).

He said that the ship normally had a complement of 106, but the chief engineer, who he declined to name, had business to attend to onshore and was not aboard HTMS Sukhothai on December 18th adding. If the chief engineer is absent, his deputy takes charge of overseeing the ship’s engines, he explained.

He also said that the captain of the ship, whose name has alsonot been disclosed, will be the person questioned about the loss of the vessel by the Royal Thai Navy’s investigators.

The ship was on its way to participate in the 100th birthday celebrations of Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse, or Prince of Chumphon, the Father of the Thai Navy, scheduled on December 19th.

By yesterday, 24 missing crew have been recovered, 23 of whom have been identified. Five others are still unaccounted for and are the subjects of active searches, said Vice Admiral Pichai.

A Navy SEAL team has joined the search, focusing on surface and undersea searches around the islands off Chumphon province. Foot patrols have scoured the coastline from Bang Saphan district in Prachuap Khiri Khan down to Ban Don Bay in Surat Thani, he said.

Admiral Chonlathit Navanukraw, the naval chief-of-staff, admitted that searching in the open sea is difficult, but the RTN will continue the search and he hopes there may be survivors among the missing five.