FAMILY ORDEAL: Catherine and Peter Marron with baby Richard, born Christmas day five years ago.Catherine and Peter Marron and their children Richard, who turned 5 on Christmas Day, and Sophie, 7, were on a day trip to the island from Phuket, where they had been holidaying for a week.
Nanjing Night Net

They had not long arrived at Phi Phi, the idyllic setting for the film The Beach, before they went swimming.

Suddenly the waist-deep water rushed out, leaving them only ankle deep.

“Catherine knew something was wrong and she yelled out to Peter to catch hold of Richard,” Ian Fair said.

“The next thing, they were all underwater and the waves crashed on top of them.

“They struggled up and the water started receding again.”

Mr Fair said the boats in the bay started their motors and began picking up people in the water.

“Someone took them to (where they could climb up to) higher ground, just two minutes before the next wave,” he said.

The family clambered up the bank to a high point, which had become a refuge for people trying to avoid the water, and they spent a number of hours there, unharmed bar a few cuts and scratches.

The next day, a ferry took them back to their Phuket beachfront hotel, whose first two floors had been devastated by the water.

“Fortunately their room was on the third level, so they could break in and get their belongings and papers,” Mr Fair said. “(Catherine) said their hotel was one of the few left standing. They are very, very lucky to be alive.”

Mr Fair said he and his wife had a phone call from Peter’s brother in Melbourne late in the afternoon on Boxing Day after he had seen the disaster on the TV news.

They sent Catherine and Peter a quick e-mail at 6.30pm asking them to let them know if they were okay.

They registered the Marrons with the emergency hotline about 8.30pm and three hours later received an e-mail from the family to say they were safe.

Catherine phoned her parents late Monday night to give them more detail.

“They’re safe and well and hopefully they’re flying out today,” Mr Fair said.

“It was horrific for the children.”

Mrs Fair said her daughter had described it as a horrible experience and said they were “glad to be breathing”.

She said Catherine had praised the locals, who had formed human chains on the beach to drag people from the water, and a Thai policewoman who had offered them her hotel room.

“So they were well looked after,” Mrs Fair said.

“Once you see the destruction and the devastation (on the news), you think `how does anyone get out of that?’

“We’d been praying a lot for them and we’re just so thankful.”

The Marron family has been living in Brunei for the last two years, where Peter, 44, has been working as a teacher and Catherine, 36, as a school nurse.

They are due to return to Launceston in June.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.