Weather delays search for students missing after cliff plunge

national August 08, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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To the dismay of the families of two Thai students whose rental car plunged off a cliff in the US late last month, US agencies have postponed a bid to retrieve the vehicle due to strong winds and river currents.

The Thai Consulate General office in Los Angeles tried to hire private rescue firms to retrieve the car that was submerged in a river below the 150-metre-high cliff along a route leading to Kings’ Canyon National Park.

The attempt was rejected and the Thai officials were informed that the California Highway Police and county sheriff’s office had the most qualified experts to do the job. The agency was due to start the recovery effort yesterday, but it has been postponed until tomorrow.

Families of Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit and Bhakapon Chairattanasongporn arrived in LA on the weekend after the University of Florida post-graduate students were reported missing on July 26.

Their families were initially informed that the US team would use either a helicopter or flying drone to check the vehicle yesterday, to locate the two students who are still listed as missing persons. 

According to the Facebook page of the Thai Consulate General office in LA, the US agencies told the families on Sunday afternoon that a helicopter might not be able to land in the area due to strong winds and river current.

The job has been delayed tentatively until tomorrow.

“The families are more distraught after hearing the update,” according to the Facebook page. 

The consulate has provided accommodation for the students’ families and taken them to the site on the highway where the car plunged off the cliff. They were also taken to visit Wat Padhammachart in La Puente and nearby Hsi Lai Temple to pray and make merit. 

Earlier, they visited a hotel where the students stayed on the night of July 25 to pick up the belongings left there. However, they were told that the police had taken the belongings so they could collect evidence.

The hotel’s owner alerted police after the students did not check out of the hotel on July 26.

An assistant rector of the University of South Florida who accompanied the team said the university would take care of the belongings left at the university and handle the insurance of the rental car.

Thai consul general Tanee Sangrat was quoted on his office’s Facebook page that he could not accept the delays by the US authorities, and pointed out that Thailand had always taken immediate steps to rescue injured foreigners. This could possibly become an issue, he said.

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