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Accident

Driver in van crash surrenders

Somboon Thansa-ard, the fugitive driver of the public-transport van that crashed into a semi-trailer on the Bangkok-Chon Buri motorway in Samut Prakan's Bang Bo district Friday, killing six passengers and injuring seven, turned himself in to police yesterday.



The driver of the Mor Chit Bus Terminal-Chachoengsao van had been wanted for reckless driving causing death, injury and property damage, and for fleeing the scene without helping victims or presenting himself to police, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a Bt20,000 fine. He was introduced to media at a conference at 4.30pm by Highway Police 8 superintendent Pol Col Thanawat Wattanakul. Two injured passengers, Somkiat Boonma, 33, and Chairat Sosan, 34, were also present.

The 39-year-old Somboon said the accident took place after the New Year Festival, during which transport-van drivers had been working hard. He said that while driving his van, which had 13 Chachoengsao-bound passengers, in the left lane, he dozed off behind wheel. He woke up to see the van speeding towards the rear of the trailer and wasn't able to brake in time.

Somboon claimed he helped some of the injured before police and rescue workers arrived, but was so shocked at what had happened that he walked away from the scene, then fled to his girlfriend's home 2km away in Chachoengsao's Bang Khla district.

He said he felt so guilty that he contacted the transport company to surrender himself yesterday. Urging fellow drivers to rest well before driving, he said that at the time he thought he could handle the trip, although he slept only 3 or 4 hours the previous night due to stress from fighting on the phone with his girlfriend.

He apologised to the deceased passengers' families and said that, if possible, he wanted to be ordained as a monk for their merit for three months.

Police planned to request that Somboon be denied bail, saying he was a flight risk. Thanawat said the case report was now awaiting the results of a safety check on the van to see if the transport company would also be charged. The case should be ready for submission to court this week, the police officer said.

Somboon's comments were at odds with an earlier report by an informed source that Somboon's fellow van drivers had alleged Somboon didn't get enough sleep the night before the smash because he had gone out gambling.

After an earlier meeting on the case, Thanawat said police would ask the Highway Department and the Transport Ministry to install speed-detection cameras along the motorway, while Chachoengsao Transport (1971) manager Natthawat Kittikulpan said the firm gave Bt50,000 to the families of deceased passengers Wanthaya Klinhom and Sureeporn Charoendee and Bt20,000 to each of the seven injured.

Speaking at the Senate meeting yesterday, Senator Jetn Sirathranont urged the government get tough on inter-provincial transport vans and limit their maximum speed to 100km/hour. Saying that most vans had installed extra petrol tanks in the rear of the vehicles, causing the front of the vans to lift and making them harder to control at high speed, Jetn said van transport was popular due to its convenience, so the government should strictly check on its safety standards.


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