(27 December) At least 29 people have been killed after their bus plunged down into a deep chasm in Petchabun province.
The bus, owned by Sombat Tour company, was carrying 33 people from Khon Kaen province to Chiang Rai province before it fell off Pho Khun Pha Mueang Bridge on State Highway No. 12, which ran through the sharp slope of Namnao National Park.
The mountainous terrain around the gorge proved to be great difficulty for the rescue workers. Nevertheless, the rescuers found four survivors in the wreckage, who were reported to be severely injured. The survivors were immediately sent to Petchabun Hospital.
Witnesses said the bus could was seen shaking in its path, dragging down several utility poles, and the driver appeared to attempt to stop the bus before it fell off the bridge.
The driver was among the dead, officials said.
Incidentally, the bridge where the accident took place is believed to be the highest bridge above the ground in Thailand, crossing over approximately 50 metre-deep gorge between two hills.
According to Petchabun Governor Wichian Chantaranothai, the bridge had previously witnessed many accidents, and it has small barriers which could do little to prevent the vehicles from plunging down the gorge.
The provincial authority will be investigating the accident and searching for an appropriate procedure to prevent such incident in the future, he added.
Police officers say they suspect that the driver might have dozed off behind the wheel, but stress that more investigation is needed.
The incident coincided with the beginning of the New Year season in which millions of Thai travel to upcountry destinations for the long vacation, leading to notoriously large number of traffic accidents.
In a Facebook post, Transport Minister Charchart expressed his sympathy to the family of the deceased, and stated that the accident might have occurred from human error.
He also wished all Thais a good luck for New Year season and warned that they must strictly follow traffic safety procedures to avoid any loss.
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