‘No one wants to help’: Family denied Thai mercy trip
The family of a Victorian man who died while swimming at a beach in Thailand are pleading with government to allow them to fly overseas and bury him in a traditional ceremony.
Tobey Martin, 30, died in May while living out his dreams as a yoga and personal fitness instructor at a retreat in Thailand.
The Gippsland-raised "free spirit" had been living in the Asian nation for years and had travelled to an island near Koh Lanta just before his death.
His family, who found out about Tobey's death via a Facebook post from a local, believe he went out on a fishing boat on May 24, hit his head on rocks while jumping or swimming in the ocean and never woke up.
They've now spent almost six months fighting for clearance to travel and bury their beloved "Tobes" in a traditional Thai ceremony - something they believe he would have wanted.
"We are devastated by the loss of Tobey and this situation where we are so far removed from him is beyond comprehension," Tobey's sister Alisha Leketic said.
"We can't even grieve properly because we haven't been able to register he's really gone.
"It's a constant limbo."
Ms Leketic has been in contact with both Australian and Thai officials, filled in numerous applications and bartered with locals to "store" his body at a hospital, at a cost of $800 per month.
She's also asked friends in the travel industry and locals in Thailand to act on her behalf in lobbying the Thai government, but with little success.
"No one wants to help, no one wants to give us assistance. It feels like there is no hope," Ms Leketic said.
The Australian government has since granted Ms Leketic, her daughter, Tobey's mother and sister, a special exemption to leave the country on compassionate grounds, but their application has been denied twice by authorities in Thailand.
"We're not asking to go for a holiday, we're asking to go for a few days and cremate our son and brother and then leave," she said.
"We just want someone to help, to hear us and see what we've gone through."
The close-knit family, including Ms Leketic and Tobey's four other siblings, are now "at a loss" as to what to do next.
"He was a really kind, beautiful soul … and we just want some closure.
"Our hearts are breaking."
Originally published as 'No one wants to help': Family denied Thai mercy trip