Yacht Carrying Laos’ Ex-President Capsizes Killing At Least Eight

Rescue teams save 40, but former President Choummaly Xayasone loses wife and son.
Yacht Carrying Laos’ Ex-President Capsizes Killing At Least Eight Rescue teams and local officials are working to save survivors from a capsized yacht on the morning of April 4th, 2021 in the Nam Ngeum reservoir in Vientiane province, Laos.

At least eight are dead in Laos after a yacht carrying ex-President Choummaly Xayasone capsized during a storm Sunday as he and the former first family returned from a gathering at a luxury hotel in Vientiane province.

Among the eight confirmed victims were former first lady Keosaiychai Xayasone and former Vientiane province Gov. Vidong Xayasonethe wife and son of Choummaly Xayasone, who served as president from 2006 to 2016. The former president was among 40 survivors.

The accident occurred at about 8 a.m. in the middle of the Nam Ngeum reservoir. Xayasone and his family had just left a family event at the nearby Chinese-owned-and-operated Dansavanh Resort and Casino.

According to initial reports from the provincial government and a local rescue team, the number of passengers and crew was believed to be 39, of which rescuers were able to save 31. They also recovered eight bodies.

A member of the rescue team told RFA's Lao Service Monday that according to the latest figures, 40 of 48 survived the accident. 

“During the search operation, the conditions were still harsh. It was still raining and the winds were gusting. It took us some time to get from the shore to the scene of the accident. The distance from where they boarded the boat to where it capsized is about 400 meters [437 yards].”

A rescue diver explained to RFA the possible cause, saying, “the boat's conductor said it was turning in curvy motion when it was hit by the strong wind and waves.”

The Vientiane Times quoted Vientiane province governor Khamphanh Sitthidampha, who explained Sunday that the boat capsized “due to severe weather conditions including a thunderstorm and strong winds.”

“After the accident occurred, the relevant bodies from the central and local governments, as well as rescue teams, rushed to assist," the governor said, adding that the 31 then-confirmed survivors were transported to the hospital by 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The governor also confirmed that eight died in the accident.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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