BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The trip of a lifetime turns tragic for a man who worked to save lives in East Baltimore. Loved ones believe he died in strong currents during a dive trip to Indonesia.
Mike Hellgren has more on his heartbreaking story and how people here are remembering him.
The Thailand native was just 28 years old. He managed finances for the nation’s largest methadone clinic here in Baltimore. Things went wrong during a diving trip with friends.
Thapana Thiracharoenpanya, known simply as “Tee,” loved the water. An experienced diver, those close to him say he lost oxygen in strong currents in Indonesia. His diving partners survived, but after an exhaustive search, no sign of Tee was ever found.
That news hit hard in East Baltimore, where tears flowed with the memories at a service in the Turning Point Methadone Clinic, where Tee handled the financials.
“Friends are the family we choose, and I’m happy to say that Tee is truly part of my family,” said Wayne Weak.
Tee wanted to live the American dream. He made it to Maryland, bought a house and was just weeks from getting his Green Card and bringing his mother here from Thailand.
“I don’t know anybody else that I’ve ever met who I would say had such standards, achieved as much and against such odds, which makes it all unimaginably tragic,” said Kevin Pfeffer.
His skills with money helped make Turning Point a success, helping thousands of heroin addicts on Baltimore’s streets.
“This guy worked for me 120, 130, 130, 140 hours a week because he loved his job and his sense of duty,” said Rev. Milton Williams, Turning Point Clinic.
Those with him in Indonesia believe he suffered an embolism and was swept away, shattering his American dream and the hearts of so many whose lives he changed.
“Anything that’s valuable in this world, it’s limited. And Tee was limited to 28 years,” Pfeffer said.
Friends say Tee was tethered to his friends while he was in the water. He banged on his oxygen tank, letting them know he was running low. Somehow, he detached himself. He never made it back to the surface.
Tee spoke numerous languages and had business degrees from two universities in Europe. He was expected to graduate from Johns Hopkins this year.
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