Japanese diver killed by boat propeller

Hitomi Shibata, the Japanese tourist who died while on a dive tour off Koh Racha yesterday, was struck in the face by the propeller of the dive boat she was with, police told the Phuket Gazette today.

“From our initial investigation, Miss Hitomi was diving with her dive instructor and a friend when they saw her suddenly start to rise to the surface,” said Chalong Police Duty Officer Attawat Suwannarat.

“The dive instructor said that he heard a noise before the accident, so he thought that Miss Hitomi may have accidentally pressed something on her dive equipment that forced her to surface unexpectedly.

“They were near her but could not grab her in time,” he explained.

“She surfaced right near where the boat was moving slowly and she was hit in the head by the propeller. She died instantly,” Lt Attawat added.

The Japanese Embassy in Bangkok had informed her family of her death, he said.

The boat is owned by Marine Project Company, said Lt Attawat.

“I will question the boat driver and staff on the boat about what happened further,” he added.

Lt Attawat told the Gazette he was “not allowed” to divulge the name of the boat or the name of the dive tour company Miss Hitomi was diving with.

Marine Police officers and personnel at the Tourist Rescue Center at Chalong Pier, where Miss Hitomi’s body was brought ashore, said they knew no details of the incident.

A representative at Kon Tiki Tour, named in a local blog as the dive tour company Miss Hitomi booked with, said the company was unable to comment as a police investigation was underway.

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