In almost every disaster, there is usually at least one hero, someone who cares more for other people’s safety than their own and who does not hesitate to help, even at the risk of their own life. The tragic sinking of HTMS Sukhothai is no exception. The aging corvette class Royal Thai Navy (RTN) ship foundered on Sunday night in rough seas off Bang Saphan district of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Kunakorn Jariyot, chief petty officer first class (CPO1), is a medic serving on HTMS Sukhothai. He went missing after he and two other crew were rescued and taken on board HTMS Kraburi, but he decided to jump into the sea again, with a life vest borrowed from one of the survivors, to help others who were still drifting at sea on Sunday night. He has not been seen since and yesterday (Wednesday) he was listed among the 23 crew still missing.
Fondly called “Torn Mor” by the seamen, Kunakorn is a nurse who completed study at the RTN’s nursing school. He was always seen carrying a big bag full of medical supplies, no matter how heavy it was, according to one of the surviving seamen. He was carrying the bag when he was in the water.
When the 106 crew members were ordered to abandon ship, Kunakorn and two others, Sarangkon, the deputy chief mechanic and a seaman, were in the same group with only two life vests. They held hands, which is a survival technique at sea, which they were trained to do and had learned from a book, according to a Facebook netizen who identified himself as “Woody” Kaweewat Boondet.
While drifting at sea, the three were joined by another seaman, identified as Komkrit. “Torn Mor told me to grab his hand tightly, telling me that then, even without a life vest, they would not drown,” Kaweewat quoted Komkrit as saying after he was safely rescued.
All four crew thought they would survive when they saw HTMS Kraburi approaching, but Kunakorn told them to swim to the stern of the ship, to avoid being hit by it.
Unfortunately Sarangkon, who was the oldest in the group, appeared to lose his strength and was swept away by the strong waves.
Only three of them, including Kunakorn, were plucked from the sea to safety. They were saddened at not being able to help Sarangkon, who “disappeared right before our eyes.”
Then Kunakorn told Komkrit to give him his life vest, saying that he needed it to help the others still drifting at sea. Then the medic took his bag to the mess room and has not been seen ever since.
“We only saw his bag of medical supplies in the mess room,” wrote Kaweewat in his Facebook post.
Kunakorn’s name appeared on the list of 75 crew members rescued, which was a relief to his friends and family. “We were relieved that Kunakorn’s name did not appear among those listed as still missing and that he would be fine,” according to the post.
“Until now, none of those who survived have seen (Kunakorn). His relatives have not heard from him. So, where is (Kunakorn)? We only hope, because of his sacrifice, that nothing bad will happen to him. He should be back safely. We are waiting for you brother….” the post concluded.