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Ayutthaya River Boat Death Toll Climbs to 27, Helmsman Charged with Recklessness Causing Deaths

Pilot charged while Salvage crews raise the sunken tour boat from the Chao Phraya river.

Pilot charged while Salvage crews raise the sunken tour boat from the Chao Phraya river.

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AYUTTHAYA – Pol Maj Gen Suthi Puangpikul, the Ayutthaya police chief, told the Thai media that Virat Chaisirikul, 67, the helmsman who operated a passenger boat that sank in a Thai river over the weekend had been charged with recklessness causing deaths and injuries, operating a boat carrying more passengers than permitted, and having an expired boat driver’s licence as the death toll climbed Tuesday to at least 27 people.

Udomsak Khaonuna, chief of the Ayutthaya disaster prevention and mitigation office, announced that the body of the 27th victim had been found about 3km downriver – a 3-year-old boy named  Apilak Boonrak.

Two other passengers were still missing – an 89-year-old woman named Thongbai Khanthalak and a two-year-old boy, Apinan Saengkham. Both were presumed dead.

The boat was carrying over 100 Muslims home from a religious festival Sunday on the Chao Phraya river north of Bangkok. It sank rapidly after taking on water just a few meters from the riverbank.

Forty-four passengers were injured

Authorities previously said the passenger capacity was 50 and overloading was a suspected cause of the sinking.

The helmsman is suspected of allowing too many passengers onboard and having an expired license, according to the Marine Department. Sunthorn Pansuathong, the boat owner, is also being investigated, Police said.

By NATNICHA CHUWIRUCH

The Associated Press

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