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Search of Lost Thai Navy Frigate Ends Without Finding Missing Crew

Dive search HMS Sukhothai
Courtesy Royal Thai Navy

Published Mar 12, 2024 10:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

A partial salvage operation on the wreck of the Royal Thai Navy frigate Sukhothai has concluded, without recovering the remains of five missing crewmembers. 

On the night of December 18, 2022, the Sukhothai was about 20 miles off Bang Saphan, Thailand when it encountered a storm. As the vessel rolled in the waves, seawater entered a side exhaust pipe, causing a blackout. The vessel gradually succumbed to progressive flooding, and at 0012 hours the next morning, Sukhothai capsized and sank.

76 survivors and 24 deceased crewmembers were recovered, and five remain missing. Last month, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, the Royal Thai Navy launched a two-week dive operation to search the wreck for the remains of the last five crewmembers. All accessible compartments were thoroughly checked, the service said, without results. 

While the missing sailors remain lost at sea, the dive teams also deactivated the Sukhothai's weapons systems. The ship's Harpoon missile and torpedo control systems are now safe from misuse. A small number of items from the wreck were recovered for remembrance purposes, including the ship's bell, a statue of the Buddha, and the nameplate of the ship's commander. 

A U.S. Navy dive and salvage team assisted the project with equipment and the use of the U.S.-chartered dive support vessel Ocean Valor. The operation took place alongside a joint U.S.-Thai military exercise, Cobra Gold 2024.

"This salvage will hopefully bring some comfort and closure to the families of all the brave sailors and marines who were lost," said U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Robert Godec in a statement.