BANGKOK — Police said Friday that the operator of a crane that fell on an all-girls school and injured 10 students earlier this week is a Cambodian national who remains on the run.
Bangrak police chief Duangchote said the man, which he did not name, fled the scene immediately after Wednesday’s accident at Assumption Convent School, which left one student with a fractured skull. The crane fell from a hotel which was being renovated without a permit.
“I have instructed the investigators to track him down and arrest him,” Col. Duangchote said. “I also informed immigration checkpoints to step up security and prevent him from fleeing the country.”
The Cambodian is one of two suspects charged so far for the crane collapse at the illegal construction site. The other is a Thai engineer, Pattarakiat Sonthidechakul, who’s said to be in charge of the works.
Col. Duangchote said Pattarakiat told police the accident took place just as the workers were installing metal barriers at the 17-storey building. Pattarakiat also said he was not around the crane when it collapsed upon the school. He was released after questioning.
Both Pattarakiat and the Cambodian operator were charged with negligence leading to injuries and property damages.
Duangchote said six construction firms involved in the illegal renovation must show up for interrogation by today or police will apply for summons warrants from the court. Officials said they never approved the renovation and ordered works to halt on April 1, but the order was ignored by the firms.
Arnuphap Anannap, a manager in charge of the renovation efforts, offered an apology at a news conference on Thursday. He blamed the crane operator’s actions for the accident.
“The incident was caused by the negligence and carelessness of the crane operator that day,” Arnuphap said, adding that his company will take responsibility for repairs and medical fees.
He did not mention why renovation continued at the site despite being ordered to stop.
Of the 10 schoolgirls struck by the debris on Wednesday, one remains hospitalized for severe head injuries. Lerdsin Hospital director Sompong Tanjariyaporn said today the girl was no longer in a critical condition, but physicians continue to monitor her for possible infections.
The girl can communicate despite fractures in her skull and nose, Sompong said.