7 killed as crashed van goes up in flames

Seven people, including a pregnant woman and two children, were killed as a passenger van went up in flames following a crash in Chon Buri province yesterday morning.

TRAGIC: The remains of the burned out passenger van after a crash in Chon Buri yesterday that killed seven people.

Police said the van, with a Rayong licence plate, was travelling between Bangkok and Rayong.

The vehicle, which departed from Ekamai bus terminal at 6.30am, was carrying the driver and nine passengers.

The accident happened about 8.20am in front of Bira International Circuit in Chon Bur's Bang Lamung district.

Witnesses told police the vehicle was travelling at a high speed in the right lane and the driver appeared to lose control, running into a U-turn sign and crashing in to a ditch in the central reservation before bursting into flames.

Pol Sen Sgt Maj Sutheepan Sretjamnong, a patrol officer with Chon Buri Highway Police who witnessed the accident, said he saw people inside the van waving their hands for help after the accident. As he and a group of people ran towards the van, there were two blasts.

Noopien Lachjantuek, another witness, said the two front wheels of the van were knocked off when it struck the sign. As the van moved forward, sparks flew from under the vehicle as it grated against the road.

Seven charred bodies were found in the van after firefighters took about 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

The dead were one man, one boy aged four or five, four women and one female infant. One of the women was about seven months pregnant and was embracing the boy in the front seat of the van. Two other bodies were found in the front seat.

In the compartment, three bodies were found, including a woman holding the body of a female infant aged around nine to 10 months.

Two other passengers, Arunsri Kraisit, aged 41, and Sripai Semsuksai, 56, and the driver, Chuchart Pothichai, 50, were injured and taken to hospital.

Pol Maj Gen Katcha Tatusatra, Chon Buri police chief, said the accident was a horrific tragedy, especially as two children were killed.

Police believe Mr Chuchart may have fallen asleep while driving.

The road sloped downhill at the accident site, which could have caused the van to gain speed, the officers said.

Police will set up checkpoints on the road to prevent further accidents, Pol Maj Gen Katcha said.