Asian Tsunami Heros

Monday, January 31, 2005

When tsunami hit, tourist diver saved panicking PADI scuba instructor

PHUKET, Thailand (4 Jan 2005) -- A tourist scuba diver caught up in the Asian tsunami disaster during a dive off a Thai island last night told how he saved his PADI diving instructor from drowning as the force of the huge waves pounded on the surf above them.

Alasdair Stewart also revealed that, as he fought for his life out at sea, his wife, Gillian, had her own narrow escape as a wave crashed through the foyer of their hotel.

Mr Stewart, 55, from Dollar, Clackmannanshire, who was recovering in a hotel at the Thai resort of Pattaya yesterday, was exploring a reef half a kilometre off Phi Phi island in south-west Thailand when the tsunami struck on Boxing Day.

Despite the pressure from the huge waves above his head, Mr Stewart said he remained totally calm and even kept his diving instructor from panicking as the tsunami, which reached speeds of up to 500mph, swept them 90ft under water in only a few seconds.

He said: "We were anchored off the south of the island and exploring coral half a kilometre away from rocks when the wave struck and a strong current swept us along, forcing us 30 metres under in a matter of seconds. The current was strong and my instructor was terrified and screaming for help, but I kept my nerve and managed to remain calm and kept in constant visual contact with her until the wave passed."

Mr Stewart, an optician, said his immediate thought was to get to shore to check the safety of his wife, also an optician, whom he knew was spending the morning on the beach.

"I knew my wife had planned to go to the beach that morning and all I could do was pray that she changed her mind and was safe," he said. "As it turned out, she was in our hotel room and managed to grab the passports and our money before escaping on to the roof, but I didn't know this.

"We both searched for each other with no joy and, as we were both opticians, ended up using our medical training to help out victims at separate, makeshift medical centres, with neither knowing if the other had survived."

He added: "It was not until the day after the wave hit Phi Phi island did we find one another. We just broke down. What we went through will never leave us and we still burst into tears when we think about how kind everyone has been."

Other tales emerged last night of heroic acts involving Scots, including John Chroston, 48, a mountain rescue volunteer from Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, whose reactions saved the lives of his wife, his daughter and 15 fellow tourists caught up in the catastrophe.

Moments before the tsunami struck, Mr Chroston, a biology teacher, was swimming in Kamala Bay, near Phuket in Thailand, as his family relaxed on sun loungers, but he saw the warning signs as the water around him suddenly disappeared, leaving boats marooned in the sand and fish gulping in the open air.

As fellow tourists gazed in awe, wondering where the tide had gone, Mr Chroston realised the beach was about to be struck by a tsunami and sprinted across the bay towards his family, shouting for them and the other tourists to run for high ground.

He said: "I consider myself relatively reserved, not prone to over-reaction, but on that beach I left all my inhibitions behind as I ran shouting, 'Tsunami, tsunami' and telling everyone to run.

"People were just looking at me, wondering what was the problem as their young children ran towards the stranded fish. But in the end I managed to clear a number of people from the beach."


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    By Blogger completely-complete, at 2:21 AM  

  • As the optician referred to here, I would like to say that the report of saving my diving instructor was fabricated by the journalist who interviewd me. Any one who has done scuba diving will know that to be swept to 90 metres is almost certainly fatal. The truth is no one panicked, no one was swept below 5 metres, and the diving was merely an unusual and unexpected rather than obviously dangerous experience. It was not until some two hours later, arriving back at Koh Phi-Phi Don, that we realised anything particularly serious had happened.
    Unfortunately some newspapers, who should have known better, picked up and ran with this grossly exaggerated story, and I have been unable to achieve an apology or a retraction!
    Which is not to say that the whole experience in the aftermath was not traumatic, or did not involve some personal effort and risk.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 PM  

  • That was amusing! Sounds like you had a pretty interesting adventure that day. I am still wondering how the Tourist got her job.

    By Blogger Jessica Gatto, at 6:05 PM  

  • If you get Tourist package.You can not forget it.

    By Blogger Jessica Gatto, at 2:11 AM  

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