Death Toll From Thai Warship's Sinking Rises to 18
The bodies of three more crewmembers of the lost Royal Thai Navy corvette HMTS Sukhothai were recovered Sunday, bringing the number of confirmed dead from the disaster to 18. An additional 11 men remain missing, and the search for survivors continues into its second week.
One of the bodies found Sunday has been identified as a seaman from a coastal antiaircraft unit. The other two have been sent for DNA analysis to determine their identity.
An additional body clothed in a regulation-issue Royal Thai Navy shirt washed ashore in Songkhla over the weekend. Though initially suspected to be a member of the Sukhothai's crew, the deceased has been identified as a fisherman from a different vessel that went down in the same storm.
76 survivors have been rescued, including 18 who were hospitalized and 58 who have returned home to their families. Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn has extended them royal patronage to cover their needs.
In a video address shared with the Bangkok Post, Sukhothai's commanding officer, Capt. Pichitchai Thuennadee, called for the safety of the remaining missing crewmembers. "Please come back. All of us are waiting for you," said Capt. Thuennadee."I hope they are stranded on islands somewhere and are trying to find their way home."
Current search efforts are focused on coastal areas in the hopes that some survivors may have made it ashore in a remote location. The response team also hopes to dive the wreck site soon in order to find clues to the vessel's loss and determine if any of the missing went down with the ship. A dive was scheduled for this weekend but continued rough weather forced a postponement.
On December 18, the Sukhothai encountered strong winds and waves while operating about 20 miles off Bang Saphan. As the vessel rolled in the waves, seawater entered a side exhaust pipe, affecting her engines and electrical equipment and causing a blackout. More water entered the vessel, causing her to list further over. Her pumps were unable to control the flooding, and responders could not transfer over salvage pumps because the surface conditions were too rough. At 0012 hours on Sunday, the vessel capsized and sank.
Opposition member of parliament Phicharn Chaowapattanawong, a leader of Thailand's Progressive Party, has called for an independent civilian investigation of the sinking in order to ensure public trust in the results.