Briton among 12 dead after tour boat sinks at Vietnam beauty spot

Officials in Vietnam are investigating what caused a boat to sink while anchored in the spectacular Halong Bay, drowning 10 young foreign tourists, including a Briton, named as 30-year-old Stuart McCormick. Two Vietnamese were also killed, including the tour guide.

Amid reports that the boat, Truong Hai, had "problems with its machinery", police and staff from foreign embassies were interviewing survivors to try to piece together what caused the vessel, anchored for the night in a calm sea close to Titov Island, to sink in minutes shortly before dawn. Luckily, the crew managed to send a distress call.

Most of the 15 survivors – nine of them foreign tourists, the rest Vietnamese – had been on deck, to take pictures of the sunrise. Witnesses said a wooden plank suddenly ripped off the hull and water rapidly flooded in while the crew struggled to contain it. The survivors were picked up by boats answering the distress call. Authorities said all of the dead had been asleep in their cabins and were trapped by the pressure of the water.

George Fosmire, a 23-year-old American tourist, said the alarm was raised by his girlfriend. He said she had drowned, with another young woman who was sharing their cabin. Mr Fosmire, who escaped through a window as water flooded their cabin, said: "The whole thing took between 30 seconds and a minute. I had to put my face to the ceiling to suck any air."

The survivors were wrapped in blankets and taken to hospital or nearby hotels to recover; the bodies of the dead – the two Vietnamese, two Americans, Holly Pyle, 25 and Samantha Taylor, 21, two Russians, two Swedes, the Briton, a French citizen, one Japanese and one Swiss – were taken to Bai Chay hospital mortuary.

Reports said most of them were aged between 20 and 25. "Crew members tried to stop the water and alerted the tourists who were sleeping, but the water came in and the boat sank quickly," Vu Van Thin, the chief administrator of Quang Ninh province, said.

The Foreign Office said Mr McCormick's next of kin had been informed. A team from the British embassy is working with the local authorities and hospitals to establish whether other British citizens are involved.

A visit to Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site with more than 1,900 limestone islets, is usually a magical event and the site is hugely important to the tourism industry in Vietnam.

One bay boat operator said the boat was "small and very cheap; there was a problem with the machinery on the boat". He added: "Some people disappeared. The police and local people are trying to find them." Police said the poor condition of the boat was to blame.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said after the investigation was completed that tour companies should improve safety measures at Halong Bay. "This is a very rare and very unfortunate accident," she said.

Yesterday, despite the tragedy, tourists were still taking boat trips.

Witnesses' accounts

The vessel, anchored in calm waters, sank almost instantly, survivors said. "The boat took one minute to sink," said Stefano Corda, 35, of Palermo, Italy. "We went to the exit, and the boat was almost vertical in the water."

Another Italian, Stefano Sacconi, was in the bathroom about 4.20am when he thought he felt the boat's hull buckling beneath him. "We started to hear tables and glasses falling from the top of the restaurant," he said. "My friend called me, 'Something's wrong here. The boat is going down'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas