Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two rowers missing, presumed dead in Tonle Sap boat crash

Two rowers missing, presumed dead in Tonle Sap boat crash

Police speak to rowers after their boat was hit by a cruise ship on the Tonle Sap river near the Royal Palace this morning, leaving two missing and presumed dead.
Police speak to rowers after their boat was hit by a cruise ship on the Tonle Sap river near the Royal Palace this morning, leaving two missing and presumed dead. Hong Menea

Two rowers missing, presumed dead in Tonle Sap boat crash

Two rowers from a boat racing team in town for the Water Festival are missing, presumed dead, after their vessel collided with a cruise ship on the Tonle Sap river this morning.

The men – identified as Chhoen Chorn, 36, and Sok Chan Chesda, 18 – were among nine members of a team from Phnom Penh’s Prek Thmei commune preparing to practice ahead of a race this evening when their craft was clipped by the 223-foot Cruiseco Adventurer, a river cruise ship that runs between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Ouch Soy, 56, a crewman sitting next to the two victims at the time, said their vessel was caught in the path of the faster cruise ship and struck on the left-hand side approximately four metres from the stern at about 7:15 am.

“The ship blew their horn but our boat was slow and could not move away,” Soy said.

“All of the people jumped out of the boat, which was broken in the crash. When the ship hit us, I jumped out of the boat, while Chorn and Chesda did not jump. They just sat, ducked their heads and disappeared into the water.”

“After [the crew from the Adventurer] threw the life-saving devices, they drove away without pulling us from the water.”

Soy said the company and crew had begun discussions about a settlement, though the amount of compensation would be determined after the pair’s bodies are found.

An email to the Australia-based Cruiseco Line, which also operates tours in Myanmar, has yet to be answered.

Crewman Yang Vanda, 25, said he did not think his teammates would be found alive.

“They’ve been missing for hours in the water,” said Vanda, who praised authorities for helping to pull the survivors from the water after the boat capsized.

Prek Thmei commune chief Ly Vantheng, who is head of the team, said a team of Cham fishermen had been employed to dive and try and find the victims.

He added the team was unlikely to race after the tragedy.

“I don’t know how it could be enjoyable since two people are missing,” Ventheng said.

“We feel much regret over the incident… we came to here to celebrate the national festival… the company also didn’t want this to happen and have expressed their regret.”

Chhin Ketana, secretary general for the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, said the races this evening were organised by City Hall and were not part of the official Water Festival, which begins on Sunday.

Reached earlier today, City Hall spokesman Meas Chanyada declined to comment, saying he was busy.

Today’s crash is not the first tragedy to befall the Water Festival, which has been cancelled several times in recent years for reasons including floods, low water levels and political tensions.

In 2010, more than 300 people died and hundreds more were injured after a stampede erupted during celebrations on Koh Pich.

MOST VIEWED

  • Woman detained for murder of hairdresser over unpaid $1K debt

    A woman has been held in connection with the murder of a 40-year-old widow. The victim’s daughter claims the motive was the suspect’s unpaid four million riel ($1,000) debt to her mother. The 17-year-old girl, Pich Sievmey, said her mother, Koem Yaneang, a hairdresser

  • ‘Life goes on’ if Cambodia loses Everything But Arms

    Cambodia's business sector is exploring ways to mitigate any fallout from a possible loss of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement as talks continue before the 28-member bloc makes a final decision. The EU monitoring process is set to conclude in

  • Nesat beach: A magnet drawing tourists to the Kingdom’s coastline

    A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh. Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has

  • Woman confesses to murder, dismemberment over debt

    The daughter of a woman who was killed and dismembered in Phnom Penh earlier this month requested the authorities on Wednesday to impose the death penalty on the woman who killed her mother, after listening to the killer confess and describe her gruesome actions without