An 18-year-old girl yesterday received a guilty verdict and a suspended jail term for reckless driving that was blamed for the deaths of nine people.
Her criminal conviction will likely have an impact on the Bt120 million worth of compensation lawsuits filed by victims or their relatives at the Civil Court.
At the time of the fatal accident on Bangkok’s tollway in late 2010, she was an under-aged driver and was clearly travelling at a speed beyond legal limits.
The case caught the public attention because the accident killed many van passengers, but the girl was photographed using her mobile phone, apparently calmly, shortly after the fatal accident.
Among the victims were Dr Sastra Chaotiang and Kiattimant Rodaree, who had just graduated from Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of engineering with first-class honours and secured a job at the National Nanotechnology Centre.
The Central Juvenile and Family Court yesterday convicted the speeding driver of reckless driving that caused the deaths of others and property damages. It commuted her jail term from three to two years, and suspended it for three years on the grounds that her statement was useful.
As part of the punishment, she was also ordered to report to probation officials every three months and do 48 hours of community service within two years. She will also face a driving ban until she turns 25.
“I am happy with the verdict, although I am still sad that my son had no chance to have a family. He died an untimely death because of her,” Sastra’s adoptive mother Tawil Chaotiang said.
Thongpoon Panthong, mother of the driver of the van involved in the mishap, said she felt better now because at least the court had told society that the accident was not caused by her daughter, who was also killed in the accident.
The convicted teenager was from an elite family. She came to the courtroom with her parents and lawyer. She had denied any wrongdoing during trials and looked relieved after the verdict was read.
“I think parents should be required to shoulder more responsibilities in some types of legal offences committed by minors. It’s the duty of the parents to watch over their children,” Kiattimant’s father Dr Krit Rod-aree said.