(12 March) A double car accident in Rayong province has killed 6 motorists, including a Singaporean, and one wild elephant.
Police at the Wang Chan Police Station received the reports of the accident at around 04.00 this morning. The police and rescue workers later arrived at the scene at the 70-71 kilometre mark of Route 344 which runs through a forested area in Wang Chan district.
At the accident site, the police found three injured elephants standing on the road. Nearby, they found two dead bodies in the front seat of a badly damaged Mitsubishi Pajero vehicle, while two severely injured passengers were stuck in the backseat area.
The rescue workers retrieved both passengers from the wreckage and sent them to hospital, but the pair succumbed to their severe injuries later. One of the passengers was named as Mr. Lim Bower Jonathan, a Singaporean citizen.
Close to the wrecked Pajero, the police encountered a pick-up truck which crashed into the back of a six-wheeler truck. Two dead bodies were found inside the pick-up truck's front seat – bringing the death tolls from the two vehicles to 6 – but two passengers in the backseat survived with a number of injuries.
Initial investigation by the police indicated that the driver of the Pajero was driving along the route at high speed and slammed into the group of elephants who happened to stray onto the road. The pick-up truck skid off the road into the side of the road after the crash.
Later, the driver of the six-wheeler truck approached the crash site and slowed down his vehicle to observe the accident, police said, but the driver of the oncoming pick-up truck behind the vehicle failed to notice that the six-wheeler had slowed down, and subsequently crashed into the six-wheeler truck.
Officials from Sri Racha Wildlife Preservation unit also arrived at the scene to inspect the injuries of the three elephants, and found that one of them, a 15-years old female, was gravely wounded. Officials then shot the elephant with painkiller darts to ease the pain before transporting the creature to an aid station, while the two slightly-injured elephants were herded back into the forest.
Officialis believe that the elephants strayed out of the forest area as they searched for food.
The Department of National Park later released a statement that the severely-injured elephant had died from a grave wound on her chest.
The department's director, Mr. Niphon Chotibarn, expressed his condolence to loved ones of the 6 motorists who died in the accident, and stated that the dead elephant amounted to "a loss in the national resources of Thai forest".
He added that he is particularly sadded because the accident coincided with the National Elephants Day in Thailand, and vowed to tackle the "longrunning" problem of stray elephants. According to Mr. Niphon, the problem leads to elephants dying in car accidents, trampling on locals' crops, and even hurting some of the locals.
The director said the Department of National Park might solve the issue by designating a special preservation zone in Ang Rue Nai Valley, covering an area of 4,000 rai.
The area might be surrounded by electric fences to keep the elephants inside the preservation zone, Mr. Niphon said.