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December 3, 2009

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Tourist tragedy: 2 Chinese die in Thai boat

TWO Chinese tourists died in a speedboat clash yesterday off Thailand's Pattaya coast, while at least another 14 on board were injured.

The Chinese travel agency that organized the tour group identified the two men, who drowned, as Zheng Honglu, 57, and Chen Dingshan, 61.

An official from the Chinese Embassy in Thailand said two speedboats collided about 12:30pm local time off Pattaya.

The accident happened about 100 meters offshore, said Liu Xiaojian, an injured Chinese tourist, when a single-engine speedboat named Ta-wat-chai-nam-chok collided with the other one-engine craft named New Friend.

"The boat was carrying us, 29 tourists from China, three tour guides and the driver heading back to Pattaya shore from Lan Island, when I felt a strong shock suddenly and the boat begin sinking into the sea," Liu said in a Thai hospital.

He said his nose was broken in the accident and probably needed surgery.

The other boat, with 13 tourists from the Middle East, Britain and Russia along with two drivers, was stuck in the shallow water, according to The Nation online.

All of the injured were sent to Pattaya Memorial Hospital immediately, said the hospital's coordinator, Somkiat Potrerayut.

The coordinator said eight of them had been discharged as their injuries were minor.

Besides the tourists from Chinese mainland and a Hong Kong tourist, there were also two British, one Pakistani and one Thai injured in the accident, he said.

Somkiat said there were six Chinese, including the one from Hong Kong, remaining in hospital, with two of them in intensive care.

"But the two guys are fully conscious and able to talk," he said, adding they would stay in ICU for one or two more days after almost drowning.

The two victims, who were identified as dead on the way to the Memorial Hospital, had been sent to the nearest public hospital for possible autopsies, Somkiat said.

According to The Nation online, police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chanapat Nawalak said initial investigations found that the New Friend hit the other boat's rear, causing both of them to break up and sink.

Police said they aimed to press charges of reckless driving, causing other people's deaths and injuries, against the drivers of the two boats.

Officials from the Chinese Embassy arrived in Pattaya yesterday afternoon to help investigate the accident and to comfort the injured.

The victims were under a tour group organized by Wuhan Spring International Travel Service of Hubei Province.

Liu Huiping from the travel agency said it would send staff members to Thailand today to take care of the tourists and handle other issues.

The resort city of Pattaya is located in Thailand's eastern province of Chon-bu-ri.


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