Driver in fatal tourist van crash admits to dozing off

Driver in fatal tourist van crash admits to dozing off

The wrecked van, seen at the Bang Pa-in police station in Ayutthaya province on Friday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)
The wrecked van, seen at the Bang Pa-in police station in Ayutthaya province on Friday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)

AYUTTHAYA: The driver of the passenger van that hit a big truck, killing four Japanese tourists and their guide, in Bang Pa-in district on Wednesday has confessed to dozing off at the wheel, according to police.

Charun Aksonsri explained that he had slept only four hours before starting work that day, Pol Col Sa-nga Theerasaranyanont, deputy chief of Ayutthaya police, said on Friday.

The 52-year-old driver made the admission while being questioned at Phranakorn Sri Ayutthaya Hospital, where he is being treated for injuries he sustained in the crash.

According to Pol Col Sa-nga, Mr Charun said he went to sleep at midnight on Tuesday, and got up at 4am Wednesday. He picked up the tourists and the guide at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province at 5am for a day-long tour of Ayutthaya.

He nodded off during the trip and the van smashed into a 10-wheel truck that was slowing down to make a left turn off Highway 347 in tambon Talad Kriab about 4.30pm that day. The van's front was heavily damaged and the vehicle was also on fire.

The dead passengers were identified as Kumiko Komeima, 59, Yoshio Komeima, 68, Katsuhiko Narimoto, 65, Haruka Narimoto, 30, and tour guide Piyatip Krueangtai, 35.

Pol Col Sa-nga said that Yoshio and Katsuhiko were both doctors with practices in Japan.

Kamol Buranapong, the deputy director-general of the Land Transport Department who inspected the scene, said there were no skid marks on the road indicating the driver had tried to brake, and the GPS record showed the van, which had been in use for five years, was travelling at 93 kilometres per hour five minutes before the accident.

The van driver had exceeded the 80kph speed limit set for the vehicle, he said.

Lawyer Manit Srithong, acting for the owner of the van, RL Service Co, said the company would pay the compensation required by law.

The possibility of additional compensation, on top of insurance cover, would depend on who was blamed for the accident, he said.

Isaree Ketklam, of the Office of the Insurance Commission in Ayutthaya, said the company had insurance cover for the van with LMG Insurance Co and initial compensation amounted to 400,000 baht per dead passenger.

A representative of LMG Insurance said in Bang Pa-in that RL Service also had life insurance for the passengers with compensation of up to 500,000 per person.

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