Thursday, December 30, 2004

FIRST HAND STORY: Luke Simmonds (A miraculous save and rescue!)

Luke Simmonds from London, England describes what happens to he and his friend as he was out sailing when the tsunami hits. He was miraculously washed forward on to the beach - and then went on to help aid hurt people, including a small child. Read his account - his tragedy - and the heartache he continues to have!

Sehen Sie viel mehr Überlebendgeschichten einschließlich Fotos und Verbindungen zu den tsunami videos an: TSUNAMI SURVIVOR STORIES

On January 3 - Luke sent me a letter he sent to friends. Part of his story was also covered in the SOUTH AFRICA SUNDAY TIMES

I arrived in Thailand on the 20th and spent 3 days in Phuket on Kata Beach with a Swedish girlfriend and her family. They had planned their trip for months. I decided very last minute to join them before going onto meet Danish friends in Koh Phi Phi, and finally onto Bangkok with friends from Hong Kong for New Year. I moved onto Phi Phi on the 24th and celebrated Christmas with 3 of my Danish friends - Lars and his girlfriend Rine , and Jesper. On the evening of the 25th , I was exhausted so didn't join them for dinner and went to bed at around 9pm. This is important as anyone who knows me , will know that I tend to sleep late ! But given a long nights rest , I was up early and had breakfast with Lars & Rine.

At about 10:30 we went to the beach. Lars and I planned to go sailing , but there was no wind so we opted for water skiing. We waited for the boat and noted the wind was picking up so we would sail afterwards. First Lars skied and then it was my turn. At the moment i got into the water the lagoon started to drain out - in particular on the far right hand side of the bay ( as you look out to sea). Within seconds it was too shallow to ski, so i climbed back into the boat. Lars, I and the driver sat there just watching the water drain away without any comprehension of what was to happen next. At first we saw a couple on a Kayak struggling in the current - they were being sucked out to sea. But then almost immediately they were on the top of a small wave kayaking into the beach at some speed. We were excited by the site and just imagined they were having some fun. Of course we could not know of the huge volume of water that was underneath them , that once it reached the shallow water would simply rise up into a huge wave. That is basically what happened next.

We were in the ski boat facing towards the shore, when the water passing underneath us began to pull the boat around and towards the shore. Almost out of nowhere there was a huge wall of water, behind us at the beach. We were at the bottom of a 10 meter wave that stretched the entire length of the beach, maybe 1km. I said to Lars that we were in trouble - at this moment it didn't even dawn on me that the wave would pass through the island causing the destruction that it did. I screamed at the driver to get us out to sea, but even at full power , the boat just got sucked to the bottom of the wave. The wave collapsed on the top of the boat. I remember covering my head and rolling into a ball. Underwater I just kept on thinking " please don't get hit by something ". I came to the surface , breathed, and then was pulled under again. I like to think that all of the diving I have done helped me - I knew not to fight the current and to wait as long as I could before reacting. The truth is , I was just lucky. I came to the surface , grabbed some more air, and then saw a huge wave coming at me. I could see that it wasn't about to break where I was so i took a breath and dived through it, coming up the other side. I grabbed some wood to hang onto, but then saw a life jacket ( presumably from our boat ) floating 10 meters away. I swam like crazy for it - in my head I knew it was the best thing to do. I got it on and instantly felt safe - i was afloat in the sea and things didn't look that bad for me. I knew I was safe from drowning I just had to wait for help. I looked for Lars, saw our driver first, and then Lars about 150 meters away, he looked unhurt, but even from that distance I could see his face had taken on a different aspect. I have thought about this since and have decided that it was survival.

We were all then pushed inland , over what I now know was the Cabana Hotel pool where so many people had been when the wave struck. I saw the water flooding into open spaces and it was here that I got very frightened. Water was rushing into fill any empty voids and I could see that I was likely to go wherever the water went. I smashed into the first floor balcony of the hotel and was hanging on with my body being pulled under. It was too strong. I took a breath and then was pulled under the hotel through the ground floor pool side balconies. I am sure i survived due to the life jacket , as it was always trying to get me to the surface. I think I came up around the corner of the hotel and drifted a little way to the back of the Hotel before swimming to a tree and climbing up.

About 3 or 4 minutes later the water subsided. I climbed down and almost immediately saw Lars and the driver , they were both fine. Then the screaming started. People calling for their loved ones. At first a guy looking for his daughters , Fredericke and Isabella. I asked him where they had been ( in the pool ) and then I explained how far I had travelled and that we needed to spread out and walk away from the Hotel. Everywhere was devastation. The small wooden bungalows were ripped open. We called their names, we never found them. Then 2 French girls stuck up a tree asked me to help them down. I now know from Lars that he had a similar experience. Whilst looking for Fredericke and Isabella he found 2 Thai girls stuck in a basement room, filling up with water. He helped them out as the water was rushing in to fill the space they occupied. On a lighter side, I understand one of the girls didn't want to come out as all of her clothes had been pulled from her body - Lars didn't give her a choice !

At the Cabana Hotel we started to make a hospital area. Some people came on their own, others we heard screaming and we went to them. Another English guy, called CC ( spelling ? ) was a psychiatrist, and so we kind of appointed him in charge. The first girl we collected from the rubble was an English girl called Sally. She was covered in the most severe cuts i have ever seen. Imagine those documentaries about liposuction, etc..... it was like that. Gaping holes with grotesque cuts in the flesh, to the bone. She had at least 7 lacerations over her legs and tummy. We saw wounds like this throughout the day caused by the debris in the water. The bungalows often had their roofs made of corrugated iron, which travelling through the water at 40 KPH clearly just tore through bodies. We kicked down a door to use as a stretcher and carried her to the first floor. She was the first , and then they just kept coming. A Japanese husband and wife. The wife had lost half of her throat. We simply held her neck together. A Swedish women whose head was cleaved open - we tied her head together. A Japanese girl whose leg was so badly broken , we decided that we had to put it straight. I held her hand, and kissed her, whilst crying with her, as 3 guys pulled her leg straight. It took 3 or 4 minutes of the most unbelievable pain for this girl. She was amazing. I am still trying to find her. I know it was the stress of the situation but somehow there was a very special connection between us. Afterwards we all prayed for the rest of her group. She was missing 16 people ! I have since contacted some Japanese newspapers as I feel that I will find it hard to put this behind me until I know what happened to her. I would get on a flight to Japan in an instant if I knew that I could see her again. Then there was an Israeli boy , travelling on his own, I think called Tommy. He had a major cut by his armpit and was petrified that he would lose his arm. I cleaned out his wound whilst trying to give reassurance. I'm pretty sure he would be OK as he was able to move everything - It just looked so horrible. Whilst we were helping someone , often you would hear , " Doctor , please come and help my friend." I didn't know whether to explain that I wasn't a Doctor or not. 9 times out of 10 , I said I wasn't, but still people were desperate for help.

I think it was about 12:30 now and around this time the first reports of more waves came. They never did, but the effect was to cause even more panic. Around this time I met another amazing person. Michelle walked over and asked if she could help. You need to understand we had very little. We were sending people off to the rooms ( if they were prepared to leave the relative shelter of high ground ) to get water from the mini bars, cleans sheets , and the sewing kits ( we thought we might have to sew up some of the wounds... fortunately we did not ). I looked at Michelle and could tell she was holding back. I said we needed help , but how was she and who was she with ? Her husband was missing , he'd been swimming. We cried , but then she just said, " right, lets help these people".... unbelievable ! An hour later, her husband Marvin walked in , unhurt !!!! I cannot describe to you that moment , it was pure joy.

At around 14:00 we heard that a boat was coming in. CC and I spoke and where concerned that people would panic and rush for the boat. He pointed out we would have to restrain people. I made an announcement about what was happening and said that only the most injured would be allowed to leave and that CC would decide who they were.... i think we all knew who had to go. The boat came in and we carried about 20 people down to the boat on doors, deck chairs, etc. We took Sally, the 3 Japanese, a number of Swedish and Thai people..... i think it was about 20 people in total that went on that first boat.

After that I tried to make it over to my Hotel to find my friends. Lars and I had got separated and I hadn't seen him since the water first subsided. It was impossible to cross the island and it was in this journey that I started to see how bad the destruction was. In the 200 meters i travelled I saw at least 20 dead bodies. I gave up and went back to the Cabana Hotel. Time went by and as more warnings of waves came in , people left to goto higher ground ... up the mountain. A number of people stayed and were debating the risks. To get to the mountain was probably 30 minutes across flat ground of total destruction. If a wave came and you were out there, you were dead. Simple as that. At about 4pm a guy came in with a walkie talkie and confirmed that another bigger wave was coming and that we were not high enough. This wave never came, but again the damage was done. Those that could walk left. I decided it was time i had to go too.

As I was leaving a S.African family , mother, grandmother, aunt and little girl were making their way very slowly. They all had cuts to the legs. As I understand it, the little girl had drowned but they had given CPR and brought her back to life , but she was unresponsive. I said to the mother I would take her and go. I am not sure if she really understood. She passed me the little girl, and I went. I was very frightened. I did not look back. This has given me some nightmares. I got to the mountain and it was impossible to get up whilst holding a little unconscious 6 year old. An English guy helped me ( his name may have been Adam and his girlfriend Emma ) , and we only got up about 15 meters. I sat there with her in my arms trying to feed her 'sugar water' for about 2 hours. Eventually I decided she would not make it unless she got to a hospital. I climbed back down the mountain , which I could not have done without the help of an American guy called Larry and crossed the island ( unbelievably scary , fear of another wave ) , got to the beach where there was a boat with about 100 people trying to board from 1 plank. The Thai's saw me with this little girl and just hoisted me aboard. Going out to sea was one of the most bizarre moments. The harbour was full of debris and dead bodies. Very silent. Everyone frightened of another wave.

At sea , we boarded a bigger boat and waited for other boats to join us. I still held the little girl in my arms. Her name I thought was Shania ( she had whispered it in a moment of consciousness ) , I later found out it was Chane. We arrived at Phuket town at approx 22:30 and were the first into an ambulance , with 2 other English guys I met on the boat - Jimbo (21 ) and Mark (32 ). We went to the Mission Hospital and got the little girl into intensive Care - I had not put her down for 8 hours. I now have some understanding of what it must mean to be a parent and I look forward to that day for me. Later though, we had to move to the Government hospital to get a brain scan. All ok, so back to Mission hospital. Throughout the night I tried to find relatives of the little girl. I called S.African embassy ( shut ) so left a message of who i was, where i was , and who i had. Spoke to British embassy and repeated the story. In intensive care there were 2 other Europeans - Angelika from Austria, and Antonio from Portugal. Antonio's girlfriend Anna was there , unhurt, so we talked a lot. She helped me. I felt very responsible for the little girl and was suffering some guilt at taking her from the Mother. I kept on thinking about how the Mother must be feeling, not knowing where and how her little girl was.

Later on I noticed the Austrian women ( who I would find out was called Angelika Thomes ) looking in my direction. I went over to speak to her. " How are you , are you ok ?" She just burst into tears - she had lost her husband and 15 year old son. I told her that I would go and phone the Austrian embassy and give them her details. The next day we heard that both her husband and son were alive and well ! Such happiness. During the night I called Angelika's friend in Austria ( Karin ) and told her what was going on, who I was and where we were. An hour later a call was passed to me " Doctor Luke , this is Angelika's Doctor in Austria " !!!!!! This happened on a number of occasions, people mistaking you for a Doctor. I must say this was quite surreal. Especially as I was wearing a pair of ripped shorts from the day before. Her Doctor and I spoke and he was just happy to be able to talk to someone properly in English. I love the Thai people, they are simply one of the , if not THE, kindest races out there, but in our hospital language was a problem. In the intensive care unit not one of the nurses spoke English. Often I would go down to the administration department to talk to the staff there who were excellent and were really trying to help, but it was chaos at the hospitals. Perhaps worse was the lists - names were spelt wrong, nationalities wrong,etc. All this made it more complicated to find people.

I slept a few hours at the hospital and about 6am the little girl Chane opened her eyes. We played a game of trying to spell out her surname. I held up letters in front of her and she nodded or pointed at them. Her surname was PANAINO. I ran ( hobbled ) downstairs to phone the embassy. I kind of broke down at this point for a little while. I had been desperate to find her parents, but with no name ,and her not talking it seemed an impossible task. Now it seemed just a matter of time. At this point I still hadn't spoken to anyone from home or any of my friends. Losing your mobile phone cuts you off from the world. How many numbers do you know ? I didn't know many and was too tired to concentrate. I was leaving messages at home , my Brothers mobile, even tried the office. But hadn't spoken to anyone. I called my own mobile and heard messages of people calling in. Most importantly I heard that Anneli ( my Swedish girlfriend ) and her family were fine. However, the desperation in her voice was clear. She wanted me to call her but didn't leave her number ! I tried to call her Hotel but the lines were down, so no way to tell her I was ok. I then realised that if i could get my messages I could re-record my own message. So I called back and did this. Unfortunately it did not save the message, so it wasn't until i called back 6 hours later that I realised this. I recorded a new message which I think many of you heard.

At about 9am I walked through the hospital reception and heard my name shouted. Corny i know, but of all the hospitals in all the towns, there was Lars and his girlfriend Rine !!! Both of them well , cuts & bruises. No sign of Jesper and today as I write this almost a week later we still have no news. I think we accept that he has gone, but just hope he did not suffer and that we can find his body. We left the Hospital to goto the Pearl Hotel where all the Scandinavians were being moved to. I stayed with them a little while but felt disconnected and isolated. I wanted to be around British people and I wanted to go back to the Hospital to find out how Chane was, so i left.

I have spoken to Lars about what happened to Jesper and this is all we know : Jesper was on the beach with Rine when they saw the wave coming. At first they gathered up some of our belongings and then started to run through the Hotel bungalows that we had been staying at - Phi Phi Charlie. Running in flip flops is hard. Jesper fell over and Rine fell on top of him. They got up, left everything and carried on running. They were separated. Rine was trying to get up some stairs when the water came. She was hanging onto the top step, with water up to her neck, when two Thai guys pulled her up to safety. She did not see what happened to Jesper.

Back at the hospital , at about 11am, a nurse came in holding a mobile phone which she shoved next to the ear of Chane.... it was Daddy !!! Chane could not talk, i took the phone. It was not her Dad, but her Uncle Anton. I told him who I was and where we were. He arrived 30 minutes later and collapsed into my arms. Actually I collapsed into his too. We just cried and hugged. He had spoken to the Auntie and knew who I was. The mother and Grand mother were all fine just miles away. I explained the story and how guilty i felt for taking her. He was brilliant and just thanked me for saving her life and told me that the mother was so grateful. Since getting back to the UK, I have called the hospital , the mother was there, we spoke, it was great ... nothing else to be said !

I think around 14:00 i had this sense that it was time for me to leave. There was no-one else left who I was connected with that hadn't met their family / friends, yet I was on my own and still hadn't spoken to anyone. I went to the City Hall to get papers but gave up after an hour when someone said, just get upto Bangkok and sort it out there - a Thai guy gave me the shoes he was wearing , a t-shirt from someone else. I went to Phuket airport and waited 5 hours before getting on free flight from Thai Airways. At the airport I met the 2 French girls I had got down from the tree 36 hours earlier !!! I became part of their extended family as they had been 'adopted' by a French guy , Bernard , and his wife and Kids. At Bangkok, within 30 minutes I had a piece of paper to admit me to the UK, and within 1 hour I was on the BA flight that had come from Sydney, First Class. I lost the plot here. For about an hour I was in 'shock'. I could not stop shaking and crying, I think the plane represented home. The staff were great and I really must contact BA to let them know that the crew on that flight helped me significantly.

Home, my Brother , the Press, guilt. I am safe , unhurt and I was out so quickly. Every day I think about what happened and whether I could have done more. I have a strong urge to go back, but think that first I will have to goto Denmark to be with my friends there to deal with the loss of Jesper. I sleep , but wake up very early. I am glued to the TV. I have contacted the press, as some of you will have seen. I want to know what happened to the people we helped. Last night Sally's Mum called. She is recovering in Bangkok hospital. Another amazing call from a Mum who was frightened for her daughter. She knows the extent of Sally's injuries, but she is alive and will recover. I hope to go and see them in Jersey when they are ready.

I am now just looking for the Japanese girl. I have sent an email to some of the papers out there and hope that someone will pick up on the story - I hope so.

I lost everything out there. The only thing I came back with were the shorts I was wearing and lots of paper with names , telephone numbers, messages to give to family and friends. I know that I am very lucky to be alive. We must do everything we can to help those that have not been so lucky. I urge you to go and make a financial donation - if you have done it already , do it again. I am trying to get a passport so I can goto Denmark, but it seems that it may take some days. I will come to the office and already I have read all of your mails. Please forgive me If I have not written back yet, I hope that this 'story' will answer your questions. I cannot wait to see you all soon.

See 15 more suvivor stories - including what happened in the first 15 minutes of the waves. See 27 photos of the beach just after it hit. See more suvivor stories at:

Bericht 15 weitere Überlebendgeschichten. Wiederholen Sie die ersten 15 Minuten der Wellen. Wiederholen Sie 27 Fotos des Strandes gleich nachdem der tsunami Erfolg:



At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did an amazing job!
I admire your courage, not just physical, but emotional. I am a psychologist and can hear this has affected you deeply. It sounds like you have a lot of support, but feel free to contact me if you want to chat about what you went though. It is clear to me you saved that young girl's life as well as being of great service to many others.
Take care of yourself, you need some time to recover too.
Best wishes
Dr. Robert

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Japan . I am fluent in Japanese. we were there in Thailand (my fiancee running for his life at Khao Lak me safe in the hotel in Phuket town). If you give me any details I will do my damnest to find the japanese lady for you. Do you have a name? Any details? very fair skin or darker more chinese looking? have ypou scanned the list of survivors at the hospitals by nationality? If you can pull up a few names it will be easy.
write to me.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Japan and am fluent in Japanese. I will do my damnest to help you find the japanese lady with the broken leg. We were there that day me safe in the hotel in Phuket my fiancee running for his life in Khao Lak. Have you check the survior lists from phuket hospitals by nationality? Maybe you can pull out a name.
Write to me

At 6:46 PM, Blogger yoshie said...

Luke, Thanks for sharing your story. I was there in Phuket myself not too long ago and I am concerned about people I encountered... I really can not believe this had happened. I hope you've found the Japanese girl you are looking for. If you haven't, I am so willing to help you. I am Japanese, if there's something I can do, please let me know. Write me @

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Marc said...

It's a nice story... but i can't believe it!!!

At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,
I work as a journalist. We have to report on so many terrible things that happen in the world - most of which we have, to our shame, never been anywhere near - that it's difficult not to become in a way distanced from the horror. I read your blog with tears running down my face. The extent and unexpectedness of this disaster are in themselves mind-blowing, but it's only when we hear stories of what individual people have gone through that we can even begin to grasp what really happened, at a more personal level. You are a brave, good and generous man. Far from feeling guilt, you must console yourself with the knowledge that your first instinct was to help all those you could to the best of your ability. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us, and for moving us to help as best we can. I wish with all my heart that you and all those affected by this catastrophe will be able to recover and rebuild your lives.

At 1:08 AM, Blogger Luke Simmonds said...

To Big Mac

my name is Luke Simmonds. It is not a 'nice' story, it is a factual account of what happened to me. I am about to leave for Denmark to meet with the family of Jesper who we lost on Phi Phi, is that real enough for you ?

At 2:50 AM, Blogger Marie from Oregon said...

Luke I am from coastal Oregon and remember my father telling me stories of the tidal wave that hit Cresent City California and how if I ever see the sea pull out like you did to run as fast as I could to higher ground I did not realize how surreal that could be until I read your incredible story I wish I would have shared my dad's words with others now.....Oregon has a very similar quake fault 7 miles off the coastline staring from Bandon, Oregon going up to Astoria, Oregon they said just recently because the coastline is having sevral quakes in that area that the experts expect a 7-8 oint on the richter to hit soon and the faultline they say is caught on the other piece....that when the big quake does happen the piece caught is towards the Oregon Coast and is most likely to trigger a massive Tsunami devastating the Oregon Calif and Washington Coastlines.......I'm not sure if you know the history of Oregon Tsunami's but Bandon, Oregon was hit by one several years ago and then Crescent City,California was hit by one also I now realize what to expect if I am to live through one by your experiences. I am so proud of you to have helped all of the people you did so selflessly without giving a secound thought about doing so you are an amazing man Luke.........Thank you Marie form Oregon

At 3:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just read this first hand account of your horrific experience. I was moved beyond words. What a brave soul you are. To accomplish so much under such trying conditions is amazing. I know this is a cleashea (sp) but remember "What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger." You sir, are most powerful.

I will be praying for you to be consoled for the loss of your dear friend and for the meeting with his family to help you all have some healing.

Your comment about becomming a father and how it might feel moved me very much. Out of a horrible experience you seem to have been able to fathom something most don't get to do until they become a parent. Feelings like that are very deep and it is very hard to find words for them.

Again, I thank you for your story and very moving, first hand account of such a horrible day. It gives those of us safe and sound in other parts of the world a better understanding of how horrible the situation there is and how much we need to help all of those people there.

Debbie (America)

At 4:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for your story which made me sad and happy at the same time. You are one of mankind's grand heroes and I am glad they still exist. I wish I could shake your hand and thank you for your kind deeds. People like you mean so much more to me and us human beings than any movie star, athlete or rock singer can ever be.


At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke you are truly a legend for all you have done and I have sat here in tears reading your experience and I am thousands of miles away in Sydney,just trying to comprehend what it must have been like for you and all who were there. I have dontaed and will again and again. You will surely make a great father and your girlfriend is very lucky to have someone with your heart. I have been to Phi Phi with my girlfriend and we never leave each others sight so I can only imagine who you both must have felt.
Good luck with everything, and thankyou for letting us know how it was for you.

At 5:07 AM, Blogger LS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:11 AM, Blogger LS said...

I am from Canada and have been online all day reading people's first hand experiences from this horrific disaster, and your story seemed to have moved me the most. You are truly an angel in disguise. I can't even begin to imagine what you have gone through and reading your story brought tears to my eyes. You're an incredibly strong person in every aspect and I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and for what you did for those people in need. Especially that little girl. You are a true hero! I'm also very sorry about the loss of your friend. Its interesting reading some of the other experiences and how people were more worried about their luggage and what not than helping the people who were struggling to survive. I guess that’s why your story really touched me. But I guess everyone deals with certain situations in different ways. My heart goes out to you for your loss and what you now have to overcome after being in something this dramatic. I swear, if everyone had a heart like yours, this world would be a better place! Take care ~

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke

Bless you for your courage, love and kindness in the midst of the horror and panic. Your report brought me to tears not only of pain but also of joy and hope that humans have the capacity to behave as you did in a terrifying situation.

I will pray for all those affected - including you and your Japanese friend, may you find her soon!

At 9:33 AM, Blogger jamcclain said...

with tears in my eyes, I can only say GOD BLESS YOU, and I hope you find the japanese girl.-jam

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke
I am an ICU nurse from South Africa and have read about you in our newspapers. You are a hero, not just to all us South Africans, but to all the people who know your story. Your love and compassion for your fellow human being has touched me deeply and as a mom of three children I know just how grateful Chane's mom is today. Disregard ignorant, flippant remarks made by some people - they have no concept of what life is all about. Bless you and may you know only happiness for the rest of your life.

At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a brave, kind hearted man, wish everyone is like you. God bless you.

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Doc Luke,

Thanks for sharing your amazing account. You are a true hero. You were able to find a strength within yourself that allowed you to do what needed to be done at such a devastating time. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I have given to Doctors Without Borders.

Hawaii USA

At 1:07 PM, Blogger maragaret said...

Dear Luke,

I've been without a TV now for almost 3 months (long story) so I follow the news on Internet. Since discovering this terrible tragedy, I've followed it every day and have followed everybody's comments/photos/videos. I have cried tremendously. One thing is when there's a war or a bomb has been dropped (which would never cause such tremendous devastation), and another is for a peaceful community/area to have such a natural disaster to happen in such a swift, dramatic manner. When I read your story, you know, I only wish I'd been with you to help and encourage you. People were calling you "Doctor". I'm not surprised, for you acted like one and even better than many would have done, so please NEVER feel guilty about anything you did or could not manage to do. You risked your own life for many others and truly helped them out. The child that you had in your arms for 8 eight hours is a very lucky child to have found you and, at some time in the future, you're going to realize that, even if you never see her again (although I hope you do- she survived thanks to you, you're going to eventually feel so good about what you did, that you'll feel very much at peace with yourself (without getting big-headed!!). At the moment, you're still probably suffering from shock, which is normal and you'll get over it, in time, but only the future will make you realize what you've really done to help. This help came from your heart and not from the aim of gaining glory. You don't need that with the heart you have, which will be with you all your life. You either have it or you don't.

I am Scottish and have been living in Spain now for 30 years. I have tried to get to Sri Lanka, etc. through several NGO's, but it seems impossible for several reasons. That's beside the point.

The point is that people like you exist, and you are the people who make a difference. Never forget that.

Good luck in finding your Japanese friend. After what you've done, I have no doubt you will. I must admit, I'd love it if you contacted me to say that you had managed to contact her.

I am so very sorry about your friend, but, who knows, perhaps he has survived and has no way of contacting. Also, perhaps not.

Otherwise, Luke, have a very happy, full life. You sound like a fairly young person. In Spain we say "La vida da muchas vueltas", which means "Life has many twitches and turns". If you feel at some point that you need to see a phsychologist after all this, do so. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I'd say most people who have lived through this terrible trauma will do so.

I am so sorry that you and others have had to live through this tremendous experience, but you did. That's a fact of life. But you survived and you helped others to survive. That's quite incredible. You'll get through it, undoubtedly.

This is now an ORDER. IGNORE the stupid comments from stupid people that you may receive on the net. Stupid people tend to be so envious, with tiny brains. So take no notice. They're always around, but are worth nothing.

My kindest regards and utmost respect for your bravery and thoughtfulness for others. I hope I meet many more people like you throughout my life.

If you ever need an "anonymous" chat or some small advice, I am at your entire disposal.

Try to keep cheerful. You'll get over this. Time is a great healer.

My kindest regards, with my deepest admiration.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Luke Simmonds said...

I just wanted to thank everyone for their sincere support. I have been humbled by the kind words and tenderness of people.

Many thanks

At 2:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for telling us your story. Please post an update when you find the Japanese girl. We are dying to hear about the reunion. Best wishes to you.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story with all
of us. I have read everything there is to read on this and my heart just
bleeds for the loss of these people. Your story however just brought
me to tears. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend Jesper and I
pray he did not suffer.

Also, I want to say thank you for your selfless act of bravery in
helping all of those people who needed SOMEBODY to help them I know
I would be scared to death If I were one of the people
there and knowing that there was somebody like you gives us hope.
I accidentally saw some of the images that I wish I hadnt and being
a Photographer I know they will be burned in my memory for years to

I know it will take a long time but time does heal all wounds and I
am sure you had an angel with you that day. What I wish for you most
now is peace. Peace of mind, Peace in your heart, Peace in your dreams,
and again, Thank you for what you did for those people.

With my deepest admiration,

At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,
You are different!!! Really Different! People like you gives hope to the entire world! If everyone had a heart like yours, this world would be better than it is!
I'm amazed with your experience and how much you did in helping all of those people who needed somebody special to help them at that moment!
Thank you very much for everything you did..
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend...
Good luck with the japanese girl, and take care of yourself.

Ines, from Argentina (South America)

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW, Luke
Am I glad to be writing this message to you. I have been browsing on the net for the last 5hours, trying to get some info on you. I work with Michelle(the lady on Phi Phi island, who offered her help), and Marvin.
She is desperately trying to get your info, she has tried Sky News,like a zillion times, to no avail!!
You can never understand what you meant to Michelle in that terrible time. You were an inspiration for her to go on. She needs to talk with you. I hope they will publish this number (011 845-4888) SOUTH AFRICA. it will mean so very much to her. This is an office number, and is available from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Wonderful things await you Luke, your life has only just begun. And Luke, don't think of what more you could have done, just remember, what would have become of those whom you did help, if you did not do what you did. If you have saved one life(Chane's, for one), you have achieved a great deal.


At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,

Thank you for your article.

Sorry to come to you after what must have been a very difficult experience.

I, along with a group of friends, am searching for 2 friends who were staying at PP Charlie Beach Resort on Koh Phi Phi Island and are missing.

We are attempting to contact people who may have seen them or may have any information on their possible whereabouts.

In your article I understood that you and your danish friends were staying at the same resort, and thought you would eventually be able to help.

The names of our missing friends are Carl Sivade (male, 29) and Eve Massin (female, 27).

Both of them are French, living in Munich, Germany. They had arrived at the resort on December 24th, and noone has heard from them since the tsunami. Their pictures and some additional information as well as our e-mail adresses can be found at

the following URL:


Thank you in advance for your help.

Our hearts go out to you all.


At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,

so many people wrote to you and mostly I feel the same. I want to tell you that you are wonderful!!! Everything you did was done very well, please believe it ! Please be gentle to yourself too, take time for healing and recovering! The love of many many people and mine will support you on your way through your life. You really give light to all of us by being just like you are.
I am going on praying for all being hurt and for you. GOD bless you and might present you HIS grace and love, I wish you will have a beautiful life!
Mentally I take you in my arms sending you love and healing energy. If I can do more, please tell me.
Germany (

At 5:09 AM, Blogger lisa said...

You are so completely brave. I have never lived through a natural disaster or any catastrophe for that matter. But if I did, I would want you there for support. You are a wonderful human for all the help you gave and all that you did. I hope that one day you find peace with this horrific tragedy. I think we can all thank God for not taking this Angel.....Luke. You are an angel to many, especially Chane.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UNBELIEVABLE!UNIMAGINABLE! Thanks for sharing your is so much more real than the news accounts....

At 5:16 AM, Blogger William said...

Luke, there are two kinds of people: these who fly for their own life, in some way they are right, and these who care of the others in the worst occasions.
Did you heard about this american woman,who, from her yacht, launched her dinghy an saved herself about fifty people - first the children, then their parents -from their wrecked boats while two other yachts, at the same time and the same place , flew away ?. The number does not matters : one person is an universe of humanity : with you hands, your feet, and above all your brave heart, against the fear, the pain, the tiredness,the loss, the shock, you kept the life in some persons. That ought to be quite natural, but actually, you have DONE it. You deserve more than some usual reward : but to know who you are . Life is not a rose garden all the time, the bad times smash you or strengthen you; you are among these who are strenghtened . Your recent ordeal allows you to know that, now.
I hope sincerely you shall meet again in much less dramatic occasions the unforgettable Japanese girl. Strong, persistent will and hope makes actually miracles, and the technique too : Internet and the telephone , some newspapers or broadcasting may help a lot...
And you have many new true friends now . You gave them hope and courage trough a true generous deed. I am sure that some of them might help you : Trough the Internet thousands of people know what you did and wish and be happy helping you to fulfill your hope.

The year has just begun. I hope it will be beautiful to you for most of the rest of its days, with a good health ,and peace, strength, and joy.

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,

We are so happy with my family to have finally some news from you. I am Bernard the french guy from Tokyo. I will try to get in touch with Constance and Valentine (the 2 french girls from the trees)and get contact with you.
Hardly wait to talk to you.

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow , Bernard , its Luke here.

Great to hear from you. I'd love to make contact ... here's my email address. Please pass onto Constance and Valentine.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger nova said...

Hey luke
u are rad. u helped so many people. People who were strangers. U helped like they were family. Alot of them I think ended up being family in sense.
Because U can write this it means people know what happened.
I used to live in India on one of the coasts that got hit. MY extended family were spared, however some family friends were not so lucky.
U have nothing to doubt so stop. U did all u could and more.
Thankz wit all my heart
luv Nova

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Rikke said...

Dear Luke.
I was at Koh Phi Phi- but on a restaurant inside the town. I got hit by the Tsunami, but saved my self, by hanging on to a tree. My boyfriend is alive - hi got on a roof! But we lost on - Piers Simon from England. Maby you have heard about him? Your story gives my an idea. How it was like, on the other side of Phi Phi. Thank you so much! Take care of your self!

Rikke - Denmark (

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Rikke Wang said...

Dear Luke.
I was at Koh Phi Phi- but on a restaurant inside the town. I got hit by the Tsunami, but saved my self, by hanging on to a tree. My boyfriend is alive - hi got on a roof! But we lost on - Piers Simon from England. Maby you have heard about him? Your story gives my an idea. How it was like, on the other side of Phi Phi. Thank you so much! Take care of your self!

Rikke - Denmark (

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your story is such an inspiration. I cried at the beginning, the middle, and at the end. You are a beautiful person. God Bless you for your courage, compassion and empathy. You are a true model of what a person should be and if I were ever to meet you, I would hug you for hours. Thankyou for your story of heroism and love.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger abe906 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Chris J said...

Dear Luke,

I met Jasper who I went diving with 2 years ago at Hippo divers and I have 2 pictures of him,I don't know if you want me to send you them,He took me and my Thai girlfriend on our first dive,I couldn't believe it when I read the story,

Chris J.(England)

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Luke Simmonds said...

Dear Chris J

just so you know, we aren't talking about the sme person ! My friend is called Jesper not Jasper and he didn't dive. I'm sorry if that has caused you any stress ! I have no idea whether Jasper from Hippo divers made it or not.


At 7:47 AM, Blogger youcantryreachingme said...

Luke, most has been said. I truly admire your courage and only pray that if I found myself in your situation that God would give me the clarity of mind to help in the ways you did. I can't imagine how emotional it was being so suddenly and instantly close to complete strangers simply for survival's sake. I hear your words about the depth of the bonds formed with people in just minutes and I can imagine it. God bless you and give you peace from the nightmares.

I found your site on a search for the words "i went to the city hall" and "phuket" as I am trying to help locate a 5 year old girl (then 4) who was possibly sighted in a photo taken there on 27 December. All details at if you are able to help.

But again, God bless for your completely self-sacrifical and servant heart.


At 1:28 PM, Blogger shereeb64 said...

Dear Luke
I am absolutely amazed at your story. My darling brother died on Phi Phi in the tsunami, but his beautiful Thai wife survived. She was 4 months pregnant at the time and she and their beautiful daughter now live in Australia with our family. Maliwan talks of wonderful people who helped her after the tsunami, wonderful people like yourself. Thank you for sharing this touching story.
Gold Coast

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GAHH! the story is so amazing. thx for posting it, it'll help with my understanding of the tsunami!
(i stumbled upon this website while trying to find sources for my portfolio. im glad i did!)

At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Luke

I don't know if you remember, but you were there at the hospital with me too. We were in the same ambulance to the Mission Hospital and you reassured me that I would be okay and helped me though. Many thanks
Lucy Haylock

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Luke

Your so brave I dont know if you still check these comments but any way... I think you did something really amazing. Im Kc i live in Aust, im 12 and im doing an assignment on amazing survival stories. i was looking for someone to do this assignment on and i found your story. its not really the right thing but im using it anyway cause its just amazing. i hope youve found the japanese girl over the years. i sat at my comp gawking your story. you are soooo brave. i think many people want to thank you for what you did even i want to thank you and i dont know any that was hurt or killed.

Love Kc

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a tragic and amazing story I am now reading in 2012. I hope you found the Japanese girl. You are inspirational. I hope you recvovered emotionally from your ordeal too. Joanna

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Luke,

I was a kid when tsunami struck india.But I saw the damage that happened and suffering of the people. You did great from your side and I was really moved by your way of helping people.great work luke.u'll be remembered for years...God bless u luke.


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