It is described as the ‘world’s best beach party’ and thousands of revellers make their way to the popular tropical destination to see in the New Year at the country’s famous Full Moon Party.
But revellers in Thailand on December 31 instead found themselves in chaos after fireworks struck them just after the midnight countdown.
Sophie Thomson, 24, from Littlehampton was caught up among the crowd and she said she made a ‘lucky escape’ after almost being pulled under the crowd when sparks hit her.
She said: “It was like a sudden wave of heat then everyone started screaming and running either towards to sea or further in ground. It was actually awful, I lost my flip flops within seconds and nearly got pulled under the crowd, luckily I was with a group of Irish boys who pulled me out as I had lost my friends at this point.
“I woke up the next morning thinking I only had a small burn on my arm and leg, a bit like if someone puts a cigarette out on you.
“I took a shower and found loads of burns on my back where I’d turned away from the fire.
“Apparently one guy drowned when he ran into the sea and people broke bones and bruised themselves coming out the crowd.”
The 24-year-old, of Fastnet Way, Littlehampton, is currently travelling with her friend, Hebe Haw, 23, from Hove and the pair made their first stop in Thailand on December 12.
She added: “I remember the Happy New Year sign being lit up which caused fire to blow in the wind and sparks into the crowd. A massive fire sprinkler was also set off, I was closer to this then the sign and it blew all over me.
“I think usually they put the sign away from the crowd and the fireworks but this year everyone was right underneath it all – it was an absolute nightmare.”
Around 10,000 to 30,000 people were estimated to have gathered at the Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan.
One person died and dozens were injured after the horror struck.
Both Sophie and Hebe escaped with burns.
Sophie said: “Luckily it was nothing bad, at the time I couldn’t really process it, it was only really the next day I realised what had happened.
“We both have these weird little burns in random places, I’ve got a few on my face and clumps of my hair have fallen out too.
“To be honest we are lucky we didn’t get sucked under the crowd or pulled in the sea – it was all a bit surreal.”
The pair are now in Cambodia and are set to travel to Vietnam, Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne – where Sophie will live for a year.
Sophie, who describes herself as a ‘tough cookie’ said ‘having her wits’ got her back in one piece, but after the chaos she said she would ‘tell everyone not to go’.
She said: “It is a waste of time, you lose everyone, you can’t take anything of value cause it will more than likely get stolen.
“However, in hindsight the night could have been a lot worse. I enjoyed most of my time in Thailand, there were good days and bad days but I’d like to think I’m a tough cookie and you have just got to get on with it.
“I mean, my friends had no idea where I was or who I was with or if I was ok, but I managed to get myself back in one piece by myself – sometimes you have just got to have your wits about you and be an adult.”
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