Helicopter to join search for German tourist

PHUKET: A Royal Thai Navy helicopter has been brought in to help search the west coast for missing German tourist Barbara Lange, 75, who was last seen walking alone in the Mai Khao area near the airport on Monday (May 9).

Search teams have already scoured kilometres of beach from the southern reaches of Mai Khao down to Nai Yang and Nai Thon beaches, Lt Col Ekachai Siri of the Phuket Tourist Police explained from the search command centre set up to oversee search operations yesterday (May 14).

Lt Col Ekachai said that as day 5 of the search concluded yesterday without any sign of Ms Lange, fears for her welfare were rising.

Search teams today (May 15) have been specifically assigned to focus on dense jungle areas in Sirinath National Park, with the assistance of park officers, while other search teams continue their efforts along the coast, he said.

Lt Col Ekachai added that several unconfirmed sightings had yet to yield conclusive results. One tourist reported seeing a person near the abandoned incomplete hotel near the beach of Ao Sakhu while another had reported seeing a person onshore from Koh Pling, the same area where Ms Lange had been safely returned from when she last wandered off on May 5.

A local fishermen reported seeing an object covered with what appeared to be blue material in the water several kilometres from Koh Pling, but the heavy weather along the west coast yesterday prevented search teams in small boats from reaching the area of the sighting, he said.

Efforts will continue to try to confirm that sighting, he said.

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong yesterday explained that search efforts on land and sea would be assisted by a helicopter requested from the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa.

The request for a helicopter to be provided to join the search was made yesterday, but the strong winds made such efforts unsafe, he said.

The helicopter will join the search efforts today, he said.

Ms Lange arrived in Thailand with family on May 3, and stayed at the Maikhao Palm Beach Resort, Vice Governor Pichet said.

Thai Residential

She wandered off on May 5, but was found safe onshore from Koh Pling later that day and safely returned to the hotel, he said.

Ms Lange suffers from Alzheimer’s, V/Gov Pichet said, but noted that she was taking medication for her condition.

Ms Lange was last seen recorded on CCTV walking along a small road near Mai Khao Beach on Monday morning, he added.

Search efforts will continue in the hope that Ms Lange was still alive, V/Gov Pichet said.

“We don’t think that a 76-year-old person [sic] could have gone very far. She may have walked high up a hill and be exhausted and unable to get back,” he said.

The German embassy in Bangkok has been informed of the situation, he added.

V/Gov Pichet urged anyone who believes they have seen a person looking like Ms Lange to contact authorities immediately.

Any persons who believe they have seen Ms Lange are urged to call the Tourist Assistance Center at 062-8808112 or Khun Wichai at 084-0796279.


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