Body of Thailand victim to be flown home

Israeli tourist Nissim Lugassi killed when ferry capsized off coast of Koh Phi Phi.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JPOST.COM STAFF
September 4, 2007 12:28
3 minute read.
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The body of the Israeli tourist who was killed on Tuesday when a ferry capsized in Thailand will be flown back to Israel on Wednesday evening. The ferry, packed with tourists, overturned off the coast of Koh Phi Phi, killing 26-year-old Nissim Lugassi of Acre and seriously injuring a second Israeli. An additional three dozen Israelis were rescued from the water, some by fellow tourists who were diving in the area. The accident occurred approximately a kilometer from the coast en route from Maya Bay to Koh Phi Phi in stormy seas with waves up to four meters high, the local governor told the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Many of the survivors were left stranded for half an hour before they were rescued. Eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke emerging from the engine area of the packed boat, which reportedly had a capacity of only 40 passengers. Shortly afterwards, the boat began to list strongly to one side, and when passengers realized it was about to capsize, they jumped to the relative safety of the open water. Accounts differ as to whether there were insufficient life vests for the number of passengers or whether there were simply no life vests at all on the ferry, which was carrying tourists on a day cruise around seven Thai islands. According to initial reports, Lugassi drowned after a blow to the head knocked him unconscious as the boat sank. Passengers reported seeing desperate attempts to administer CPR, but to no avail. Lugassi was on honeymoon with his wife, Odelia, a trip that his family said he had promised her when they began dating three years ago. The couple was married only two weeks ago, leaving for Thailand shortly afterwards. Embassy officials said Lugassi's body would be flown back to Israel for burial as soon as the administrative procedures were concluded. The Israeli seriously injured in the incident was rushed to a hospital in nearby Phuket, where doctors carried out emergency operations to stabilize him. The injured man's girlfriend was with him in the hospital Tuesday evening, together with the local Chabad representative. Israeli Ambassador to Thailand Yael Rubenstein said doctors at the hospital had told her they would have a better idea of the injured man's condition on Wednesday. Rubenstein also told The Jerusalem Post that she had dispatched the consul-general to Phuket to meet with Lugassi's wife, as well as with the girlfriend of the injured man. After that, she said, the consul would continue on to Koh Phi Phi to meet with the other crash survivors. According to Rubenstein, the embassy planned to offer the Israelis buses back to Bangkok, where the embassy would provide a safe haven to relax and decompress after the trauma, as well as help them to quickly replace key documents - such as passports - that were lost when the ferry sank. The tourists would also be offered the opportunity to be flown home if they felt they could not continue with their travel plans. When reports of the sinking reached the embassy, the Foreign Ministry and local representatives opened a situation room where concerned relatives in Israel could check their family members' well-being. Rubenstein said that although they had not had a plan in effect for such situations, the embassy had been in close contact with ministry officials in Jerusalem, with Thai officials and with the Citizens Abroad desk at the Foreign Ministry, which specializes in coordinating responses to emergencies befalling Israelis overseas. "We have been in constant consultation, and we have been working very well together," said Rubenstein, emphasizing that she thought that the response had been coordinated very smoothly. The ambassador added that she hoped that the incident would not have a negative effect on Israeli tourism in Thailand. Each year, approximately 140,000 Israelis visit the southeast Asian nation.•

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