Ferry driver charged, river crash toll rises to 18

Ferry driver charged, river crash toll rises to 18

Boat driver Virat Chaisirikul, 67, denies he acted carelessly and caused the fatal ferry  crash and sinking. (Photo by Sunthon Pongpao)
Boat driver Virat Chaisirikul, 67, denies he acted carelessly and caused the fatal ferry crash and sinking. (Photo by Sunthon Pongpao)

AYUTTHAYA - Another three bodies were found after the search resumed at dawn on Monday for 10 people still missing from a ferry that hit a bridge pillar and sank in the Chao Phraya River in Ayutthaya province on Sunday.

The sad find raised the confirmed death toll to 18.

Pol Col Napol Kladkhemphet, deputy commander of Ayutthaya police, also said the 67-year-old boat helmsman, Virat Chaisirikul, had been detained for questioning and then charged with recklessly driving the boat and causing deaths. 

He  was  also charged with carrying more passengers than the boat was permitted to carry. It was licensed for 50 passengers, but there were around 150 on board. His boat driving licence had also expired. 

He was being held pending further questioning and denied police bail at this point.

Mr Virat denied he had been careless. He was overtaking a sand barge on his right at a curve in the river and a wave hit his boat's tail, knocking it off course and causing it to hit the embankment at Wat Sanam Chai. 

He also said he had been unable to prevent the passengers boarding the boat. 

"The number of passengers was just overwhelming, I was unable to stop them," he said.

Pol Col Napol said the vessel's owner, Sunthorn Phansuethong, had contacted the police and he would be questioned later. 

He would also be charged with carelessness causing death. 

Police would work with the Marine Department in investigating whether the boat had been operating  legally, met safety requirements and carried sufficient life-saving equipment.    

Ayutthaya governor Prayoon Rattanasenee said  earlier on Monday 46 other passengers were injured, of whom 10 were in critical condition. The three extra bodies were found later.

Mr Prayoon said the capsized boat was not from Ayutthaya so the driver was not familiar with the river channel, which was a factor in the incident.


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