We are a Danish Tsunami family of 4 , who went to Thailand on a 3-weeks dream-holiday, that 3 day´s before going home, turned into our lives worst disaster, as only 3 of us came home alive.
The Family members are Tom (44), Grethe (45), Julie (15) and Jeppe (10). We started our holiday in Northern Thailand for 2-week´s where we went trekking and river rafting and were supposed to enjoy the last week sunbathing and having a good time in Railey Bay close to Krabi.
On sunday the 26th we had planned to rent a long-tail boat and go to Chicken Island, where it was supposed to be nice to snorkel.
We got up early, went to buy some bread for the fish, and then we left at 9 o´clock in a long-tail boat heading for Chicken Island. Jeppe had been looking forward to this big day, as he had got a underwater camera for Christmas.
It was a beautiful day – sunshine, no wind, and lots of fish in the water. Our boat driver stopped the boat underneath/or right to the Chicken head of the island – there was like a small bay in the rocks. We were all alone on this spot, and we handfed the fish in the calm clear water.
I (Grethe) went up into our long-tail boat after snorkelling for 20 minutes. I sad and watched my family having a good time together, and kept an eye on them, because even if all are good at swimming, we have taught our kids, that you have to respect the sea. They joined me for 5 minutes to relax, and then they decided to snorkel a bit more before going ashore to have lunch.
Now more long-tail boats and speed boats joined us. The boat drivers threw ropes to each other to tie the boats together. They also jumped from boat to boat and jumped into the water, just having a good time together. I think I had 2 or 3 speedboats on my side – maybe 3 or 4 long-tails behind my boat. I saw many kids snorkelling together with adults.
All of a sudden, the speedboat in front of me started the engine. I saw Tom, Julie, and Jeppe were together placed about 3 metres in front of the speedboat – they had their back towards the sea. All of a sudden the speedboat startet to sail – as it was just about to hid an (for me unknown) boy or man Tom and Julie yelled at the boat driver to stop. Now I realised, that something was very wrong – I looked out on the sea, and I saw a tremendous big wall coming towards us – I did´nt know what it was, but I cried to Tom and the Kids to come up into the boat – but then it was already too late. A man or boy tried to climb up the ladder into my boat, but he never made it. I couldn´t reach him.
I remember my boat was pulled up on the side of the wave – I was almost hanging with my head downwards – as I then was thrown into the water, with the long-tail boat falling on top of me – everything got dark and I realised, that now the time had come, that I should die. Suddenly I saw light, and I reached the surface. I knew that here somebody could rescue me, because I remembered all the boats and people that where on the place. But oh my god, when I looked around me and there was nothing, but crashed wood, foam and sandals, I couldn´t even see one loneley person – then the next wave came.
I was banged down on the corals on the seabottom I was just thrown towards everything just like being a piece of paper in the water. I did´nt know if I was working my way up or down – the water was black, I was in panic, now I was going to swallow the water, because I HAD to breath – suddenly I saw light again – when I reached the surface I was banging my head into peaces of wood, I was wrapped into rope from the boats. It was just as if I had circled myself into this rope, and now my arms were locked to my body.
After some time (it cannot have been long time, because I do´nt have any feeling of time) I managed to get out of the rope, and then the next wave came. This time I was more calm, and relaxed – now I knew it was no good to fight against this wave. I do´nt remember if there were 3, 4 or 5 waves ,but when I once more reached the surface I got hold of a piece of wood. I was so exhausted and tired, that I just couldn´t manage one more wave, then I would die.
I hooked my arm onto the board, suddenly a man came to the surface close to me. I had the feeling he did´nt understand my English, I tried to make him understand, that he should hold on to my board in the other end. I managed to push the board over to him, and he held on to it – he was in a very bad shape.
All of a sudden I spotted a speedboat far out – I realised they were rescuing somebody. I tried to wave and call, but thought they would never see or hear me, as I couldn´t cry out loud, and I could hardly lift my arm. We were lucky they saw us. They came to us, and they dragged us up into the boat. I tried to tell them, that my family was out there, but there was no time.
I believe it was one of the speedboats that had been next to us while we were snorkelling. A boat driver had been rescued before me – he laid in the bottom of the boat with me. The guy that I had shared the board with was laying on a bench. He had many scratches on his body from the corals. I do not know what nationality he was, but maybe Italian or Southamerican he was about 30 years old – big build, had a big tattoo on one leg from knee to ankle, he also had a ring on his toe.
The passengers on board (there were many of them)gave us water, and tried to keep us awake – I remember especially an American/ English or Aussie guy, who cared a lot about us.
I could now feel my left ear was thorn into 2 pieces.
They tried hard to save the guy, that was laying on the bench.
All of a sudden I felt panic on the boat, we had to have lifejackets on, and it was hurting my back as hell. I believe a new wave was coming. Nothing happened thank God. We were taken to a riverbank somewhere in Ao Nang, I guess. Here we were placed underneath a tree in the shade and here we got wet clothes put on our bodies, which was relieving. All of a sudden somebody told me that the guy I was rescued with did´nt make it. I was so sorry.
From the riverbank we were transported by truck to Krabi hospital. I was sitting in the back together with a Swedish family of 4. Their teenage boy was laying on the floor, and the parents tried to keep him awake. I was sitting next to the thai boat driver, who was in deep shock, I tried to give him some water, because he did´nt seem be able to move his arms. Opposite me was a Japanese boy who was very quiet i think he was in shock, but in good shape.
When we arrived to the Krabi Hospital we were all taken care of. I think we were between the first maybe 50 tsunami victims, maybe it has been around 12 o´clock .After having had my ear stitched with 12 stitches, and I had all my wounds cleaned, my nose was double size and wounded, my ankle was cut, my left elbow had a big whole and my back was one big wound down the middle, and it was very sore. I was taken down for X-ray. Here the Swedish mom from the truck took nice care of me, while her teenage boy was x-rayed. She told me he was going to have an operation on his hips. I just wonder how this family is doing. I told her that I lost my family in Chicken Island, and I was sure, that they had died.
After x-ray ( and nothing broken) I was put in a bed on the Women Surgery ward no. 12. I was the first tsunami victim they saw here. All the Thai´s gathered around my bed. They just looked at me while I was crying. They couldn’t understand me, but they wanted to help. They brought me tissues and they were so nice and kind. After a lot of thinking and crying I decided to see if I was able to walk. Yes, I was weak and sore, but I would be able to go downstairs, and then just hope that I was not all alone in Thailand. (This was in the afternoon.). I managed to get all the needles from the drip out of my hand, and I went downstairs to the slaughter house. It was terrible with all these wounded people
In the first room I came to, I went to all the beds – I did´nt find anyone I knew, but in the next room (the arrival room) somebody screamed” mum, mum” in Danish, that was Tom and Julie. They were being stiched and treated here. But one was missing – our boy Jeppe, was´nt with them. They hoped, that he was with me. Tom and Julie had been rescued together with the Slot family and many more. Julie is sure, that they were 18 people rescued from the same place. She has written down all of them, and she even remembers how each person was injured.
Julie had been washed ashore where there was mud and rocks. She had rescued a little girl that had been washed ashore after her, and the last one coming up was Tom, who was very weak.
We went looking for Jeppe all day – one stayed in the casualty department to check all incoming injured and one went to the childrens ward. Jeppe was nowhere – we checked everywhere, it was terrible. A German volunteer named Gerhard, helped us to contact the Danish Embassy – they hardly knew about the disaster.
In the late evening an English girl volunteer, (I do´nt remember her name, but she was speaking on the loudspeaker outside the hospital) contacted me, and told me, that the body of a presumed Scandinavian boy had been brought in from Chicken Island. I went with her and a Thai nurse to the Hospital Mortuary. Here I found out for certain what I had feared, our Jeppe was dead – he had drowned she told me.
I walked back and told Tom and Julie, and now our lives turned in to be a disaster.
I was blaming myself, why couldn´t I take care of my little boy – 10 minutes before the wave hit, he was sitting next to me in the boat having a good time, then he decided to take the last two pictures that were left in his camera, and he jumped into the water. Maybe if he had still been in the boat he had been able to survive like me. No, I no, I could hardly take care of myself, but all the time I keep thinking, if we had done something different, but it doesn´t make any sence now. Many questions keep on coming up in my mind. Did he see the wave? Was he hit by the speed boat? did he suffer? did anyone see him? Who found him? And I do´nt even know if I wan´t an answer.
Gerhard (the German volunteer) now helped us to go to the Maritime Hotel where they had made a Hospital Center. Here we were taken good care of by doctors, who where flown in from Bangkok. Thai´s brought us clothes and food. Everybody were registrated of the authorities – dead and alive people. It was hard to get to a telephone, but the hotel manager was very nice to us, he lend his private phone to us, so we could get in touch with Denmark.
Our travel company C&C travel came to visit us from Bangkok. The Embassy couldn´t help us with anything, they were in chaos. A good Danish Friend who lives in Bangkok send us a message, that he would arrive in Krabi at 4 o´clock at night – he made a 14 hour drive with his Thai wife to come down and help us getting all the practical things done – That is a real FRIEND. The state we were in – panic, shock, sorrow, tiredness, – he was like send from heaven.
I went to the hospital with our friend got medicine and hospital papers made. Went to Krabi Morgue once more to identify Jeppe, and got the death certificate made. I will not tell you about the situation here, but it was horrible.
Back to the Hotel where a nurse told Tom to have an operation in his elbow because of inflammation – panic again. They wanted us to go to Bangkok Hospital. Our travel agent got us on the last flight this day (28th) to Bangkok.
Arrived at 2 o´clock in the morning and all 3 of us were once more going through a medical examination all night and we had to stay in the hospital. No operation, but they wanted to keep us here. The next evening we were released, after our friend had arrived again from 14 hours drive from Krabi. We went to sleep in Ambassador Hotel, and on the 30th we flew home carrying Jeppe on the same flight.
Thanks to our Travel agent and our friends Kurt and Jieb for Bangkok that we got home so soon.
Now we cannot cope with not seeing our boy again. We cannot enjoy our 3 week holiday memories, and we feel we can never get happy again, even if we have many good friends and colleagues who tries to help us and cheer us up.
Though we are very grateful that 3 of us got home, and we also thank the boat-drivers who saved our lives, all the volunteers, the Thais and the doctors and nurses for all the good they have done for us.
It is certainly not the last time we will go to Thailand. We will soon go back to Chicken Island for Jeppe´s memorial.
Jeppe we miss you so much, but we know you will take good care of Vivian in heaven. God bless you kids.Julie’s story
The 26th of December I, Mom, Dad and my smaller brother Jeppe were going snorkelling. I and Jeppe had been very excited to go and see all the beautiful fish and we had bought some bread so we could hand feed them.
When we had been in the water for a while, all of a sudden there were panic in the different boats. I, Dad and Jeppe were in the water and a boat in front of us started the engine and the boat sailed over a man who also was in the water. Dad and I began to shout at the boatman what he was doing. Then I looked back and saw this enormous wave coming against us. I began to swim, but before I knew it I was dragged under the water. I was thrown around and I didn’t now what was up and what was down. Suddenly I got up to the surface and I thought it was over, but then I was dragged under again. When I the 2nd time got up to the surface I saw a lot of people around me screaming and yelling for help, but another wave came and then it all turned black again. Once more I got up to the surface and saw Bastiaan. (The boy of Steven Slot) He had a bad eye and also a very bad lip. He was holding on to a lifejacket and I managed to get over to him to hold on to it. Another, but smaller wave came and I held tight the lifejacket. Then once again I saw Bastiaan. Now he was about a meter away and I took his arm and dragged him to the lifejacket.
I don’t now what happened then, but suddenly I felt sand under my feet and I just ran, without knowing which way. I got up on land, where a man (I think it was Charlie or Ryan. Not the man with the cut up leg) gave me a lifejacket. A little girl, I think she was 3 or 4 years old, was
flushed up beside me and when I saw that she was about to get dragged back into the water, I just grabbed her bating suit and got her in safety. Soon after my father was flushed up a live and his body was very wounded. I was just so happy to see him. Now I was not alone.
All the people climbed up on some kind of muddy hill or muddy bank. There we were sitting and I am sure that we were 18 people, because I remember all faces. Then we sat there I think for about a half or one hour before we were saved by a speedboat. All were in shock and I was only thinking of my mother Grethe and my brother Jeppe. I was sure that they had been saved by another boat. I was just so happy that my Father Tom was there with me. We were in a lot of boats and a truck before we finally arrived to the hospital. When I saw all the people around the hospital I got very scared. What was going on? Something was totally wrong.
Later that day we found my mother, but we still missed Jeppe. At the same night we got the terrible and heartbreaking information: our son and brother had died in the big Tsunami waves. Later Mom told me that you Steven and Helena had lost your little girl Vivian. I went to talk with Helena and I found out that she was badly injured, but fortunately she made it. Mom and dad was bad wounded all over their bodies. Luckily I was in good health. I had not been thrown into rocks. Only some small scratches and bruises and a foot with one stitch.
The days after were hard. Not only because of the loss of our son and brother, but also physically.
We were lucky to get home so soon and also to get Jeppe with us. But we could not have done this without all the help we got from the Thai people. The world countries could learn a lot from these amazing, helpfulness and caring people. And this were definitely not the last time I was in Thailand.
Love from Julie to all the people who were on Chicken Island December the 26th.