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29 killed ahead of '7 dangerous days'

A rescue worker scales the side of a bridge in Phetchabun in an operation to rescue survivors and retrieve the bodies of victims killed in a bus accident late on Thursday night. Twenty-nine people died and four were injured when a bus plunged off the side

A rescue worker scales the side of a bridge in Phetchabun in an operation to rescue survivors and retrieve the bodies of victims killed in a bus accident late on Thursday night. Twenty-nine people died and four were injured when a bus plunged off the side

Four also injured as bus skids off bridge in Phetchabun; speeding possible cause

A bus accident in Phetchabun killed 29 people and injured four late on Thursday, just before the "Seven Dangerous Days" of the year-end holiday period began.

The Road Safety Directing Centre has designated the period from December 27 to January 2 as "Seven Dangerous Days" in its bid to campaign for safe driving and efforts to cut road casualties.

The New Year period has been named as such because millions of people hit the roads either to visit their home provinces or go on vacation.

Pol Captain Sawaeng Sangthong of the Ban Klang Police Station in Phetchabun's Lom Sak district said the bus skidded off a bridge at about 11pm on Thursday. "It plunged about 50 metres," he said.

More than 100 rescue workers attended the scene to deliver assistance. However, with the steep decline off the Huai Tong Bridge on the Lom Sak-Chum Phae Road, it was very difficult to stage rescue operations. So far however, judging from bus tickets sold, it can be said that rescue workers managed to save all the survivors and retrieve the bodies of all those killed.

"We believe the bus was speeding at the time it reached a curve and steep bend," Sawaeng said.

He said police saw marks showing the bus had banged against barriers of the bridge.

The driver was identified as Surin Kaewmusee.

The bus, which belongs to the Sombat Tour Co, was servicing the Chiang Rai-Khon Kaen route at the time.

"All injured victims were sent to the Lom Sak Hospital," Sawaeng said.

Apichai Praipetchsak, the hospital's deputy director, said the bodies of those killed would be kept at the hospital. "Their relatives can contact the hospital to pick up the bodies," he said.

A manager of Viriyah Insurance's Phetchabun branch has come forward because the firm provided an insurance policy for the bus. Victims should therefore receive compensation in line with the law.

Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the accident highlighted the need to improve lighting and provide clear signs about risky spots for drivers.

"The barrier at the Huai Tong Bridge is clearly too low," he said after inspecting the scene of the accident. He also emphasised the need to check all vehicles well before starting a trip.

Caretaker Deputy Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, who chairs the Road Safety Directing Centre, yesterday instructed all relevant officials to minimise road accidents in their areas.

"The number of road accidents and casualties should be lower than the same period a year earlier," he said.

Charupong said the crash in Phetchabun should serve as a strong reminder that serious efforts must be made to prevent road accidents.

The centre and its partners yesterday launched efforts to prevent drunk driving or vehicle overloading, along with other risky factors.

In Kamphaeng Phet, an agriculture official was killed early yesterday when his car crashed into an oncoming truck. Somchai Lehliam, 45, died at the scene.

Police said Somchai's car was driving in a wrong traffic lane and thus crashed into the truck.

"He might have been unfamiliar with the road," Pol Major Paisan Wannachai said in his capacity as an investigator of the Muang Kamphaeng Phet Police Station.

Somchai was the first death during the Seven Dangerous Days period, which began yesterday.






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