Briton among eight dead in Thai cave hit by flash flood

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The Independent Online

A British holidaymaker told last night how she watched her fiancé swept to his death in a caving tragedy that killed five other tourists in Thailand.

Helena Carroll, 21, from Solihull was exploring the 500m deep Nam Talu caves when heavy rainfall forced water to surge through the complex.

John Cullen, 24, had lifted her to safety before being dragged under, along with a Swiss couple and their teenage daughters, a 10-year-old German boy and their two Thai guides. She was trapped for 16 hours on a ledge in the roof of the cave before rescuers found her.

She said: "I guess we had got halfway through the cave, I heard this sudden roar. I looked behind and saw this rush of water coming towards us. John and I started climbing. The first thing we saw was the tour guide and the 10-year-old German boy being dragged away, then the Swiss couple and their two lovely girls.

"As we climbed I lost my grip and slipped down but John grabbed me and pulled me up. We kept climbing higher and found a ledge. We could not see anything as all the torches had gone."

She said Mr Cullen decided to seek help but was overcome by the waters and dragged under: "He slipped into the water and that's the last I saw of him. He let go and he was gone. I was alone in the dark," she added.

The couple, both from Solihull, were one month into a year-long trip around the world. They had saved money for a deposit on a house but decided to spend it in a "dream holiday".

The group had been trekking through the Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province when the cave flooded on Saturday.

Police Lieut-Col Pichan Kanayasiri, said: "The tourists were trapped inside the cave and didn't know what was happening outside."

Thai police named the dead as Benno Fischer, 49, Stalder Fischer, 48, and their daughters Ambarea, 17, and Sarah, 15. The German child was Eddie Gaempe. His mother was ill and missed the trip. A Belgian tourist was killed by a flood in the same cave several years ago.

The province's governor, Winai Phopradit, said he had ordered the park to close during the rainy season.

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