Swedish woman in Langkawi killed by Box Jellyfish
Langkawi island lies in the Andaman Sea on the border of Thailand and is one of Malaysia's hottest tourist destinations. In late January 2010 Langkawi experienced its 3rd reported and confirmed Box Jellyfish fatality in 13 years when a 45 year old Swedish woman tragically passed away only seconds after being stung. Sympathies to the poor family.
Carina Lofgren from Smaland, Sweden was travelling with her husband and several other family members through Thailand and Malaysia. Their last night in Malaysia was meant to end with a fun night swim but instead ended disastrously when at around 11pm Carina walked through the shallows towards the shore and let out a horrible scream - like a 'stuck pig' said her husband.
She collapsed within seconds and her family rushed to her aid where it is understood they pulled tentacles from her body while taking her onto the beach. A first aid-trained family member performed CPR. An ambulance was called. 15 minutes later the paramedics arrived but she was pronounced dead at the beach.
Swedish Newspaper Report:
It seems that no-one applied vinegar, the only chance of effectively stopping the stinging. Perhaps there was none available. Maybe they did not know that vinegar was the right treatment. Was there no-one around that late in the resorts and hotels that line Pantai Chaneng that had the knowledge to grab some vinegar and douse the stings as quickly as possible?
Knowing what to do in case of an emergency such as this horrible tragedy is not difficult, there are just a few simple points and a need to have an inexpensive bottle of vinegar stored safely nearby to the beach. It's easy and everyone working in hospitality in this region should be aware of emergency treatment and ensure that visitors too are familiar with what lives in the sea they're swimming in, what the risk is and how to avoid the danger.
So in less than 2 years 2 Swedish nationals, a young girl and middle aged woman, have been killed by Box Jellyfish in the Andaman Sea only 150kms apart. This region is immensely popular with Swedes who swarm to the southern islands for a tropical bliss-out every northern winter. There clearly are Chironex-type Box Jellyfish in the area and it is highly likely that there will be more and more stings occuring.
While technically in Malaysia, Thailand is so close and so similar to Langkawi that this sting resonates throughout the region. The circumstances of the death are textbook. But unfortunately, the treatment wasn't. It would be shocking to think that Carina Lofgren could have survived if her family members had known not to remove the tentacles seeing they inject more venom when touched and, instead, had splashed her with vinegar as soon as she came onto the beach. It is only speculation but is a distinct possibility. If the stings were very bad nothing would have saved her.
Sadly, as the number of deaths start to add up, the governments in Thailand and Malaysia plus the hotel and tourist associations need to realize that the locals working in hospitality on the beach must be Box Jellyfish-aware, must know where the vinegar is and must know how to use it.