Overworked crash driver likely fell asleep, no drugs, alcohol involved (Updated)

Overworked crash driver likely fell asleep, no drugs, alcohol involved (Updated)

64-year-old made five round trips in 31 hours

Emergency service crews finish extinguishing the fire that killed 25 people after a passenger van swerved and crashed into a pickup truck in Ban Bung district, Chon Buri, on Monday. (Photo by Sawang Rescue foundation.)
Emergency service crews finish extinguishing the fire that killed 25 people after a passenger van swerved and crashed into a pickup truck in Ban Bung district, Chon Buri, on Monday. (Photo by Sawang Rescue foundation.)

The driver of the van involved in a horrific crash in Chon Buri which left 25 dead on Monday was likely to have dozed off behind the wheel as he had made five round trips within 31 hours, according to officials. An autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in his body.

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Wednesday evening update

Crash driver free of drugs, alcohol

Online reporters

Tests found no alcohol or drugs in the body of the 64-year-old driver of the passenger van that collided head-on with a pickup and exploded in Chon Buri on Monday, killing 25 people, police said on Wednesday.

The criminal investigation of the accident was now closed, it was announced.

Pol Maj Gen Pornchai Suteerakune, commander of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, said the autopsy found no trace of alcohol or drugs in Sumon Eiamsombat's blood or tissue.

Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan Pingmuang, deputy police spokesman, said the criminal case arising from the collision was now closed because the driver who allegedly caused it was killed in the incident. However, relatives of the victims could file a civil lawsuit for compensation.

Morning story

Crash driver 'likely to have dozed off'

Post Reporters

The driver of the van involved in a horrific crash in Chon Buri which left 25 dead on Monday was likely to have dozed off behind the wheel as he had made five round trips within 31 hours, according to officials.

The van was heading from Chanthaburi to Bangkok, a distance of 250km, when it swerved out of its lane and crashed into a pickup truck travelling in the opposite direction on a highway in Chon Buri's Ban Bung district.

A fire broke out in the van following the crash, which subsequently killed 14 out of 15 people on board, including the driver. The collision also killed 11 of the 12 people in the pickup.

Ponsak Thaijeam-aree, chief of the Chanthaburi Land Transport Office, said the van driver, Sumon Eiamsombat, 64, started work at 4am on Jan 1, when he left Chanthaburi for Bangkok. He began his second trip at 11.30am when he left the capital for the province. He later departed from Chanthaburi to Bangkok at 6pm.

On Jan 2, he started working at 5am, when he left Bangkok for Chanthaburi, and set off to return from the province at 11.30am.

"The driver should have had more rest and this was likely to be the cause of the crash," Mr Ponsak said.

Meanwhile, Chon Buri authorities organised a teleconference with Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith to discuss the incident.

Chon Buri governor Pakarathon Tienchai said officials who inspected the scene reported there were traces of the brakes being used at the spot where the van was seen losing control and crossing a ditch dividing the road before colliding with the pickup.

"The van driver was believed to have fallen asleep behind the wheel as he was 64 years old," the governor said.

When he regained consciousness, he tried to brake while the vehicle was moving at a high speed, causing the vehicle to veer off the lane and hit the pickup in the opposite lane, he said.

However, Mr Pakarathon said this was only the most likely cause, based on initial investigation at the accident site and conversations with some witnesses. A more thorough investigation is still needed to determine and prove the cause of the accident, he said.

Mr Arkhom said the labour law stipulates drivers for transport vehicles must not work more than eight consecutive hours and in this case, the investigation must look into how long the van driver had been working.

The incident may have been caused by driver fatigue and the speed at which he was driving, he said. The van passed a check in September last year and no problem was found with its gas cylinder.

It is probable that the fire was triggered by the fuel system, but further investigation is needed, the minister said.

Siwakon Buapong, chief of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Provincial Office in Chon Buri, said the driver should have had more rest after the five-hour drive from Bangkok to Chanthaburi.

"Most van drivers' earnings are based on round trips as well as a percentage from passenger fares. This gives drivers an incentive to drive fast in order to make more round trips, particularly during the New Year period," Mr Siwakon said

However, a conductor at the queue for the vans insisted the driver was well-rested before driving.

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  • allegedly (adv): stated without giving complete proof - ที่ถูกกล่าวหา, นัยว่า
  • authorities (noun): people or government agencies who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • autopsy: a medical examination of a dead person’s body to find out why they died - การชันสูตรศพ
  • blood (noun): the red liquid that flows through the bodies of humans and animals - เลือด
  • capital: the most important town or city of a country, usually where the central government operates from - เมืองหลวง
  • chief: a person with a high rank or the highest rank in a company or an organisation - หัวหน้า, ผู้นำ
  • civil lawsuit: a case filed with a court that deals with non-criminal matters, especially complaints made by people against other people or organisations - คดีที่ยื่นฟ้องต่อศาลแพ่ง
  • collide: (especially of moving objects) to hit something violently - ชน,กระแทก
  • collision: an accident in which a vehicle or person that is moving crashes into something - การชนประสานงา
  • commander: a police offer of high rank - ผู้บังคับบัญชา
  • compensation: money that someone receives because something bad has happened to them - เงินชดเชย
  • conductor (noun): a person whose job is to collect money from passengers on a bus or check their tickets - คนขายตั๋วรถเมล์รถราง,คนกระเป๋า
  • consecutive: following one after another in order and with nothing else in between - ที่ต่อเนื่องตามลำดับ
  • crash (verb): to collide, to hit something else with force - ชน
  • crash (noun): collision, accident - การชน
  • criminal: relating to illegal acts - เกี่ยวกับอาชญากรรม
  • cylinder: an object shaped like a wide tube; a metal container for gas or liquid - กระบอก
  • depart: to leave - ออกจาก
  • deputy: a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง
  • determine: to discover something by examining evidence to or calculate something - กำหนด, ระบุ, แสดงผล
  • direction: the way something is moving or coming from - ทิศทาง
  • Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department (noun): A Thai agency under Ministry of Interior (MOI) to handle disaster management responsibilities - กรมป้องกันและบรรเทาสาธารณภัย
  • discuss (verb): to talk about something with somebody, especially in order to decide something - สนทนา, โต้ตอบ
  • ditch: a long narrow open channel dug into the ground usually at the side of a road or field, which is used especially for supplying or removing water, or for dividing land - คูน้ำ
  • doze off: to fall asleep for a short time - งีบหลับไป, หลับไปโดยไม่รู้ตัว
  • fare: the money that you pay for a journey - ค่าโดยสาร
  • fatigue: extreme physical tiredness usually because of exertion or illness - ความเหนื่อยล้า
  • file: to take official action, in this case, to make an official complaint - ยื่นคำร้อง
  • forensic medicine: the use of scientific methods to find out about how someone died, etc. - นิติเวชศาสตร์
  • governor: a person who is chosen to be in charge of the government of a state or province or a government agency - ผู้ว่าการรัฐ, ผู้ว่าราชการจังหวัด
  • heading to: going in a particular direction - มุ่งหน้าไปทาง
  • horrific: so shocking that it upsets you - น่าขนลุก
  • however (conj): used to introduce a statement that contrasts with something that has just been said - อย่างไรก็ตาม
  • incentive: something that makes you want to do something or work harder, because you know that you will benefit by doing this - สิ่งกระตุ้น
  • incident: something that happens, usually something bad - เหตุการณ์
  • insist: to keep saying very firmly that something is true - ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
  • inspect: to look at something carefully - ตรวจสอบ, ตรวจสอบอย่างละเอียด
  • institute (noun): an organization that has a particular purpose, especially one that is connected with education or a particular profession; the building used by this organisation - สถาบัน,องค์การ,วิทยาลัย,สถาบันหนึ่งของมหาวิทยาลัย
  • investigation: the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened - การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
  • involved (verb): taking part or having a role in something - เกี่ยวข้อง, มีบทบาท
  • labour: people whose job involves hard physical work that is not skilled, especially work that is done outdoors - กรรมกร, ผู้ใช้แรงงาน
  • land transport: the moving of people and things between places using trucks, buses and other vehicles over roads -
  • likely: probable or expected - น่าจะเป็นไปได้
  • meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน
  • officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • on board: on a ship, aircraft or vehicle - บนหรือใน (เรือ, รถ, เครื่องบินหรือพาหนะอื่น)
  • opposite: across from or facing someone or something - ที่อยู่ตรงกันข้าม
  • particularly: especially, or more than usual - โดยเฉพาะ
  • probable (adj): likely to happen, to exist or to be true - ที่น่าจะเป็นไปได้
  • prove: to use facts, evidence, etc. to show that something is true - พิสูจน์
  • province: one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด
  • queue: a line of people waiting for something - คิว
  • regained consciousness: became aware of your surroundings after having been asleep, especially from an injury - ได้สติ, ฟื้น
  • relatives (noun): members of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง
  • round trip (noun): a trip or journey to a place and back again - การเดินทางไปและกลับ
  • scene: site; a place where something happens or happened - สถานที่เกิดเหตุ
  • set off (verb): to begin a journey - เริ่มเดินทาง, ออกเดินทาง
  • site: a place where something happened - ที่เกิดเหตุ
  • spokesman: a person who speaks on behalf of a group or an organization - โฆษก
  • spot: the particular place where someone or something is - ที่, สถานที่
  • stipulate: to state exactly how something must be or must be done - ระบุ, ระบุเงื่อนไข
  • subsequently: happening or coming after something else - ซึ่งตามมา
  • swerve: to change directions suddenly - เปลี่ยนทิศทาง
  • teleconference: a meeting involving people who are in different places, but who are connected by video and computers -
  • thorough: detailed and careful - ละเอียดถี่ถ้วน
  • tissue: any of the distinct types of material of which animals or plants are made, consisting of specialized cells and their products - เนื้อเยื้อ
  • traces: very small amounts of a substance - ร่องรอย
  • transport: moving people or things from one place to another - การขนส่ง
  • Transport Minister (noun): The government minister who heads the Ministry of Transport - รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงคมนาคม
  • trigger: to cause - ก่อให้เกิด กระตุ้น
  • veer (verb): to suddenly move in a different direction - เบน, แฉลบ เสียทิศทาง
  • victims : people who are killed injured or harmed in some way from an accident, natural disaster, crime, etc. - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • witness: a person who sees something happen or knows about something - ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์, พยาน
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