A film depicting one of the worst natural disasters the world has ever seen has provided some “closure” for a south Somerset family who lost a loved one in the 2004 tragedy.
Nine years ago, Piers Simon, 33, of Chilthorne Domer near Yeovil, was in the Thai resort of Ko Phi Phi with his brother Luke and three friends when he was swept out to sea after a tsunami struck the island.
The tsunami, which hit 13 countries on Boxing Day and claimed the lives of an estimated 234,000 people, was triggered by an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale.
Garden designer Piers had just helped friend Sophie Smith on to the roof of the cafe where they were having breakfast when the wave struck and carried him away.
Luke Simon, 38, led a five-day search for his brother before his body was found and returned home.
He said he had been warned against seeing a new film depicting the horror of the tragedy and aftermath by a UK tsunami support group.
Called The Impossible, the award-winning film tells the true story of a Spanish family who were in a Thai holiday resort when the tsunami struck. It stars Ewan McGregor as Henry, a father searching for his family in the aftermath of the disaster.
Mr Simon admits he was nervous about seeing the film which tells a story that has many similarities to his own experience.
He watched it with his parents, wife Naomi and friend Ben Seyfried who was also on that ill-fated holiday.
He said: “It was incredibly realistic. It was almost like the director had been there himself and saw it first hand. So much of the detail was there.
“There were lots of things that happened to us that were portrayed in the film. I got wrapped up in the family’s story and their survival but I was also relating it back to what happened to us. It was extremely good but I didn’t sleep terribly well the night after.
“I have met lots of survivors before and we shared stories, but because of the film’s realism I felt I was there again and it made me think about the many people that were badly affected and were worse off than us.
“We were a team of five and only lost one.”
Mr Simon’s mother, Celia, said she wanted to see the film out of “curiosity”. She added: “I felt there were things I wanted to know more about so I’m pleased I went because it was so well produced. I suppose you can say it was a bit of closure to our story.
“During the day I had butterflies in my stomach because I thought, ‘am I going to be able to sit through it?’ When we came out I was fine but the next day it did make me think a lot about the tsunami and what happened to them.”
After the terrible events of the tsunami, Piers’ close-knit family launched the Piers Simon Appeal in his memory. It has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds, first for communities hit by disaster worldwide and now through its School in a Bag project which provides poor and disaster-affected children with basic school equipment.
It has delivered 36,048 rucksacks filled with stationery, pens, exercise books, a drinks bottle and lunchbox with cutlery, to nine countries. For details, visit www.schoolinabag.org. Fundraising events this year include an Avon Gorge climb and a cycle ride to Brussels.
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