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The Chinese tourist whose lifeless body was found alone and around 11 metres deep by another dive tour group north of Phuket on Saturday (Nov 28) had booked her dive tour through a Patong operator, The Phuket News has learned.
Zhang Lin, 23, was on a dive tour run by Phuket William Diving, said Tongkan Worapanya, owner of the Similan Seven Sea Club dive company, which was initially named by police as the company that Ms Zhang was with. (See story here.)
Similan Seven Sea Club had only provided the boat, Mr Tongkan explained today (Nov 30).
“Phuket William Diving, which is based in Patong, often charters our boat (the MV Peterpan) to conduct dive tours,” Mr Tongkan said.
“We have some staff on board, mostly Thai staff and also two foreign dive instructors, but none of our staff were involved in the dive tour that Ms Zhang was with.
Mr Tongkan said that, as far as he was aware, “the other company” had a translator who is also a dive master leading the tour group.
“I believe there were also two advanced divers, one divemaster and one instructor in the group Ms Zhang was diving with,” he said.
“I don’t know what went wrong on that dive, or how she came to be separated from her group. I am still waiting for the report from the dive master and the instructor.”
Mr Tongkan confirmed that he had been presented data recorded by Ms Zhang’s dive computer at the time she went missing.
“When her body was found by the other divers, she had been underwater 26 minutes,” he said.
“The dive computer also showed that for the first four minutes of her dive, she was still on the surface. From five to nine minutes, she was at a depth of only two metres, and from 10 to 26 minutes, she was at a depth of nearly 12 metres.”
Mr Tongkan clarified his company’s role in the incident after meeting with Phang Nga Governor Pakhapong Thawipat at about midday today.
“They wanted to check that my company is fully legal, which it is. We are a properly registered company. We are registered with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and fully compliant with the law,” he said.
“I believe Ms Zhang’s family will arrive in Phuket tomorrow. We will do whatever we can to help them through this difficult period.”
Mr Tongkan added that central to his meeting with Phang Nga Governor Pakhapong was the possible introduction of legally required protocols for dive tours to abide by in order to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
“They are looking at what can be done in the future to prevent any further deaths like this,” he said, adding that the death of Ms Zhang had personally affected him.
“When I was told of Ms Zhang’s death, the news hit me very hard… We are working with the authorities and doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again, and we will do our best to try to help the family when they arrive,” an emotional Mr Tongkan said.
Contacted by The Phuket News this afternoon, a man at Phuket William Diving who identified himself only as “Jim” confirmed that he was aware of the incident.
However, “Jim” declined to give his full name and position and position at the company.
He also declined to identify where Phuket William Diving was located in Patong or how Ms Zhang and her friends booked their dive tour.
“I have spoken with my team about this,” he said. “My Thai language is not good. I am Chinese. I think it is best if we speak with the police about this.”