Sailor made desperate call home as ship sank

Search continues; life vest from HTMS Sukhothai found off Koh Tao

YALA/SURAT THANI: The parents of a missing sailor on HTMS Sukhothai hang onto the hope his mobile phone call back home as the ship went down on Sunday night was not the last time they will ever talk to him.

Luding Ma-ae shows a picture of his son, Abdulaziz, on his mobile phone, at his home in Kabang district of Yala province on Thursday. (Photo: Abdullah Benjakat)

“The ship is sinking. I’m standing at the front of the ship,” seaman Abdulaziz Ma-ae told his father, Luding, about 8pm on Sunday.

“What should I do? What should I do, dad?”

Mr Luding was stunned as he heard from his son for what may well have been the last time, and then the phone signal cut off.

Mr Luding said all he could do was to pray to Allah to help save his son. “I have no one to turn to except Allah,” he said.

It was not known how his son even managed to get a phone signal at the time.

Seaman Abdulaziz, 22, is one of 23 crewmen still missing after the navy corvette capsized and sank during a raging storm in the Gulf of Thailad shortly before midnight on Sunday.

The combined armed forces are involved in the searh for the missing men, led by the Royal Thai Navy, with a promise to find them all.

The joint search and rescue mission continued in its fifth day on Friday.

Six crewmen from the ill-fated HTMS Sukhothai are confirmed dead and 18 are in hospital, while 58 were allowed to return home. The vessel had 105 sailors and marines on board when it sank. 

Mr Luding said the last time he saw his son face to face was two weeks ago when he was allowed home leave, returning briefly to his family in Kabang district of Yala from the navy base in Sattahip district of Chon Buri.

Members of the family, accompanied by local officials, left for the search operation centre in Bang Saphan district of Prachuap Khiri Khan province on Thursday, intending to stay there until they see seaman Abdulazizaw again.

“We hope he will survive and we are looking forward to seeing him again,” the father said. 

“Everybody here hopes seaman Adbulaziz Ma-ae is safe.” (continues below)

The navy life jacket found in the sea off Koh Tao in Surat Thani on Friday. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

– Life jacket found 

A life jacket from HTMS Sukhothai was found in the sea off Koh Tao in Surat Thani province on Friday.

Fisherman Somphon Ngow said he found the life vest floating 25 nautical miles (50 kilomoetres) from the island. The  jacket bore the number 333, and the name Sukhothai, he said.

Koh Tao district chief Vijarn Junthavijit said Mr Somphon reported his find to Koh Tao police station and handed the jacket over to the authorities.

Mr Vijarn said the office of the Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Centre on the island confirmed that it came from the sunken ship.

Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto sent an alert to all ships in Surat Thani waters to keep an eye out for floating objects and investigate, in the hope it might be one of the missing crew from HTMS Sukhothai.

The spot where the vest was found is about 100 nautical miles (185 kilometres) from where the ship sank in a gale off Bang Saphan in Prachuap Khiri Khan.