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Phuket tour firm and client in battle over speed boat spine injury

The victim of a boating injury that happened in December last year has reported to the Phuket Office of the Department of Tourism and Sport that she has been denied compensation by the tour company that arranged the trip during which she was injured.

JpegJareeporn Toyardmak, 27, a student of nursing at Bangkok̕ s Mahidol University, told Santi Pawai, Director of Department of Tourism and Sports, Phuket branch, that on December 21 last year she went for a trip with her friends from Kuraburi pier in Phang Nga to Tachai Island with the Wow Andaman tour company. Leading the tour was guide Ratchadaporn Ponklin.

She alleges that she suffered a severe back injury on the boat trip that has left her unable to work and likely to spend years bedridden or getting around only when wearing a back brace.

She has told the tour company she wants B7.8 million compensation.

She explained, “On the way to Tachai Island the boat was going very fast against big waves.

“A friend of mine who can also drive a boat went to tell the driver to slow down but he did not listen.

“The boat was full of passengers, boxes of food and beverages so some friends and I decided to sit outside at the front of the boat.

“The boat hit a big wave and I was bounced off the seat. I tried to grab the handrail but I came back down very quickly and jarringly in a sitting position, resulting in severe pain in my back.

“Soon after, I realised that something in my spine was broken. A friend of mine also suffered injuries,” Ms Jareeporn said.

She added that she and her friends tried to tell the tour guide to return the boat to shore as she wanted to go to hospital. However, her friend came back and told her that the other passengers did not want to go back to the pier.

Her friend convinced her to wait until they reached Tachai Island so she could see a medical team there.

She said that she waited almost an hour before the boat arrived at Tachai.

As soon as they arrived, she said, the guide told her that she had to take the other customers for trekking and diving.

Ms Jareeporn was taken to rest at the national park accommodation where she was taken care of by her friends and national park’s officers.

She alleged that contrary to what the guide promised, no medical team or first aid respondents were called.

Ms Jareeporn was left for at least four hours, she said, before the group finally left Tachai Island. They arrived back at Kuraburi pier at around 5pm.

From there she was taken by ambulance to Bangkok Hospital where she arrived at around 7pm, about eight hours after the injury.

Ms Jareeporn told The Phuket News, “The company only reimbursed me for the medication I took while I was in hospital. All my other hospital fees were paid for by government tourism insurance.

“The doctor told me that I will have to take medication for at least two years, and during this time I will have to spend most of my time lying down in bed.

“I have had to quit my job and I have left university. I will have to wait until my condition improves before I can work or study again.

“I spoke with Wow Andaman about compensation. I asked for B7.8 million but they rejected this and said we had better meet in court,” she said.

However, Ms Ratchadaporn, who was the guide on the tour and is also Marketing Manager of Wow Andaman, told The Phuket News a different version of the story.

“I tried to convince [Ms Jareeporn and her friends] to sit inside because the waves were big. But they insisted on sitting in the front of the boat. Some of them said they had ‘travelled a lot’ and could take care of themselves.”

She explained, “After the accident, I gave first aid to the woman, trying to make her stay still as much as possible. She lay down inside and I was next to her all the time.

“I decided not to turn the boat around and go back to the pier because it would be faster to go to Tachai Island to get initial treatment for her.”

“It took longer than expected – about 20 minutes – because I told the driver to slow down as we were worried about her condition. I asked her many times how she was feeling but she kept answering that she was fine, that she was a nurse and she understood her condition well.

“When we arrived, I took her to the national park’s resting space, provided a mattress and told her she must stay still.”

However, she said, Ms Jareeporn’s four friends did not listen and when she wanted to go to a toilet, they moved her without appropriate equipment.

“They held her arms and legs to move her. I am not sure that is a proper way to move [someone with a damaged back]. It didn’t look safe.”

She said she was with Ms Jareeporn almost all the time and did not, as alleged, take the other tourists trekking.

“During that time, she called her boyfriend who, she said, was a doctor in Bangkok, and asked about her condition. Her boyfriend confirmed with everyone that she was okay. I am just a tour guide but they are doctor and nurse so I had no choice but to believe them.

“She said I left her but actually when it was lunch time, her friends all went for lunch at the same time and asked another tour guide to take care of her. Then they went snorkeling. It seemed like no one was seriously hurt.

“By the time we left the island the company had already called an ambulance from Bangkok Hospital to stand by at the pier.”

“When we arrived, she even admitted to my boss [who was waiting at the quay] that it was her fault because she had decided to sit in the front of the boat [against advice].”

“When she was told [at the hospital] that one of her vertebrae had been partially crushed, she then said the company had to be responsible for [all the costs].”

Ms Ratchdaporn said she was also dubious about Ms Jareeporn’s insistence on staying in the hospital for two weeks even though the doctor on the case said that she could leave after one week.

“We have doubts about this. After we checked the law, we found that would only have grounds to sue us if she stayed at least two weeks in the hospital.

“We visited her at the hospital very often to follow up and to make sure that she recovered. But although the doctor said she was able to walk and live normally without wearing a metal back brace, she said she still had pain.

“Recently, she told the doctor that she has a small piece of bone sticking out of her lower back. The doctor said it was just because she was skinny, but she said that she knew it was not normal because she is a nurse and her boyfriend is a doctor.

“She also claimed that she has numbness in her legs and that possibly comes from the back injury.

Ms Ratchdaporn said Ms Jareeporn told the company that she was basing her claim of B7.8 million on a calculation of her salary from her current age of 27 until she is 60.

“She claimed that she cannot do anything but lie down and wear a back brace all the time.

“But we have seen her Facebook account with pictures of her hanging out in a bar drinking with friends and even going to a snake show and playing with the snakes – with no back brace on.

“I think she is asking for too much. That’s why I and the company insist that if she wants B7.8 million, she has to bring her case to the court.”

Next Thursday (March 26), Mr Santi will convene a meeting between the two sides to discuss the case and see if a settlement can be reached.

Back injuries are not uncommon in the waters around Phuket among people sitting in the bow of speedboats that are crashing through heavy waves.

Phuket News

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