A Melbourne woman who drowned after getting caught in strong surf at a Phuket beach was reportedly swimming between red flags which indicate dangerous conditions, Thai police say.
Red flags on the beach in Thailand indicate dangerous conditions unlike at Australian beaches where swimmers are told to stay between red and yellow flags.
The Phuket News has reported lifeguards pulled 65-year-old Barbara Fistrovic unconscious from the water at Kamala Beach shortly after 3pm Thai time on Sunday (6pm AEST).
Ms Fistrovic was holidaying in Thailand with her husband Ivan, 75.
Kamala police lieutenant-colonel Somnuek Damkhaew said the couple were dragged out to sea by strong waves and an investigation was continuing.
“We were told that the Australian couple went to swim where red flags were posted on the beach, and were caught by strong waves which dragged them away from the shore,” Colonel Somnuek said.
“However, we are still investigating the incident.”
Despite attempts to revive her, Ms Fistrovic reportedly failed to regain consciousness and was pronounced dead later at Patong Hospital.
She worked at children’s education charity the Smith Family for 18 years as a business manager and has been remembered as an “angel” who put her heart and soul into helping others.
“We’ve really lost an angel who cared so much about people,” the Smith Family’s Victorian general manager, Anton Leschen, said.
“Barbara had the patience and generosity to train everybody even when they didn’t learn for the first, second or third time; she was there helping them.
“She was really kind and soft about helping people make this charity work.”
Smith Street chief executive Dr Lisa O’Brien said the news about Ms Fistrovic’s death had come as a shock to everyone who knew her.
Dr O’Brien said Ms Fistorivic was a “rare” type of person who lived her life going “above and beyond for others”.
“From the moment you met Barbara you knew you were in the orbit of a true people person,” she said.
“She cared a lot about all of us as individuals, and she cared a lot about The Smith Family and our cause – to create a better future for disadvantaged young Australians by supporting their education.
“Sometimes it was gentle behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, in the nicest possible way – that made everything go so much better. She was one of those rare people for whom giving was her highest order behaviour, and she expressed this in every aspect of her life.”
Dr O’Brien said Ms Fistrovic was awarded a Smith Family Reach Award and a Forbes Award for outstanding performance and commitment to The Smith Family in 2015.
“Our thoughts are with her husband, children, grandchildren, extended family and her friends. We can only imagine what they are going through right now,” she said.
“Our thoughts are also with our own team members, especially Barbara’s Victorian colleagues.”
It is understood Ms Fistrovic lived in Mill Park, in Melbourne’s north, with her family.
Lifeguards were able to save Ms Fistrovic’s husband who also became caught in what the Phuket News described as dangerous surf.
Mr Leschen, who worked with Ms Fistrovic for 14 years, said she liked to take holidays with friends and had been looking forward to her retirement.
“She was just dipping her toe into retirement and seeing what would be possible for her and Ivan in a few years to come, and that’s tragically been cut short.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted for comment.
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