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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 11:45 GMT
Man survives 'sea whirlpool' ordeal
Thai island's coastline
Tourists are warned of freak tides off Thailand
A man from Greater Manchester claims he was trapped in a freak whirlpool for 16 hours after going for a swim off the coast of Thailand.

Bill Francis, from Denton, put his survival solely down to school swimming lessons.

The 46-year-old said on Thursday the experience was "like a dream".

He was finally rescued by fishermen on Monday after going for what he though was a leisurely swim on Sunday.

This may sound strange, but I felt at peace, that I was not going to die

Bill Francis
He said: "It was a hot day last Sunday and I decided to go in the sea for a dip and cool off.

"I ended up struggling hopelessly as I saw the shore get more and more distant.

"Then I was spun around by the current and for an afternoon, a night and half a morning I was just taken in circles with no hope of ever reaching the shore."

It was Mr Francis' "sharp wits that kept him alive" said a Thai police spokesman in Bang Chang, 160 miles south east of Bangkok, where his ordeal began.

He had just completed a construction project in the nearby oil terminal at Maptaphut when he decided to go for his unscheduled marathon swim off Phula Beach.

"I just trod water, or alternatively laid back and started to float," said Mr Francis.

Buddhist amulet

"Somehow, and this may sound strange, but I felt at peace, that I was not going to die."

He said swimming lessons while he was at Egerton School, Denton and regular visits to a swimming pool in Hyde were the key to his survival.

Mr Francis was dropped on the beach at a four-star hotel. He said he was told no search was initiated because "it was dark and there was nothing anybody could do."

Thai newspapers have attributed his survival to a Buddhist amulet Bill wore around his neck.

"I do have an amulet," said Mr Francis. "But I put my survival down to the hours I spent in Hyde swimming baths."


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23 Oct 02 | Health
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