Widower’s warning 
over snorkelling death in Thailand

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The grieving widower of a woman who drowned while on a luxury holiday in Thailand has issued a warning to would-be visitors to the islands.

Fred Gardner described the popular backpacking and long-haul destination as “not a safe place for tourists” following the death of his wife, Debra, last summer.

Mrs Gardner, 53, and her husband had been on a boat trip between the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Samui when they decided to go on separate diving and snorkelling trips.

They were due to meet back at the tour boat, organised by company Easy Dives, an hour later, but Mrs Gardner was reported missing as the divers and snorkellers returned to deck. Her body was found floating on the surface a short time later, without a snorkel mask, flippers or a buoyancy aid, following a desperate search.

Speaking after Mrs Gardner’s inquest yesterday, her widower said Thai authorities showed little interest in obtaining the full facts of the case, and said a tour boat official even translated for Mr Gardner to police, while key witnesses were not called to give evidence.

The 51-year-old said: “It is not a safe place for tourists. The British embassy deals with a lot of deaths over there every year, yet it is not shown on the British and Foreign Commonwealth Office website.

“The (Thai) police officer wasn’t really interested. It seemed he wanted the barest of details. And the translator was a member of the organising party. That would never happen in this country.”

The inquest heard that Mrs Gardner, a health and social care trainer from Plymouth, was one of three snorkellers who had been left to explore a small area off the islands.

However, it was not clear whether the other two had been with Mrs Gardner, nor was it certain that she had been provided with a buoyancy aid or face mask.

Mr Gardner said the two European tourists who were supposed to be with his wife of five years had not been asked to give evidence.

Coroner Andrew Cox said there had been no sign of any suspicious activity, but echoed Mrs Gardner’s family’s concerns about why two potential witnesses had not been called to give evidence, and the tour official’s role in translating for Mr Gardner at the police station. He recorded a verdict of accidental death, caused by drowning.