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Drugged up Thai Bus Driver Sentenced to Four-year Jail Term Over Passenger Deaths

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BANGKOK – A Thai bus driver, who drove under while under the influence of methamphetamine’s and crashed his company’s double-Decker coach at a downhill curve in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Wang Nam Khieo district on March 22 resulting in 18 passenger deaths and 32 injuries, has been sentenced to a four-year-and-one-month jail term and his driver’s license permanently revoked.

The Nakhon Ratchasima Court read a primary court verdict on Wednesday, to jail the 45-year-old bus driver Krissana Juthacheun – who fled the crash scene, was re-captured on the same day in the northeastern province and tested positive for methamphetamine use.

The court trial found Krissana – who has been in detention at the provincial prison since his arrest – as a repeated drug use offender and for driving under a substance’s influence (DUI) in various occasions in Amnat Charoen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen since 2002.

In 2011, he was forced to undergo a drug rehabilitation program when he broke probation for a drug-use offense and his latest DUI offence on March 22 had led to many deaths and injuries.

The court found Krissana guilty of DUI resulting in dangers to others, reckless driving causing others’ deaths, and failing to aid the accident victims. They gave him a combined eight years and two months in prison before halving that sentence due to the defendant’s confession.

The court also permanently revoke his driver’s license. Relatives of the accident victims reportedly were satisfied with the verdict and said they would not appeal.

The fateful bus was chartered for villagers from Muang Kalasin to visit the Chanthaburi beaches and it was on the way back to Kalasin when the horrific crash took place at “Makrudwan Curve”. The families of the deceased and injured victims from this crash were given insurance money and compensation totalling Bt24 million.

Nakhon Ratchasima Highway Office 10 official Jakkrit Boonreungsri said the curve on the Highway 304 (Nakhon Ratchasima-Kabin Buri) where the bus had crashed has seen as many as 30,000 vehicles passing though it (35 per cent of which were cargo trucks) and often had accidents.

The authority would divide the lanes with a 1.2-metre-tall road division concrete barrier and reduce the signed speed limit to under 60 kilometers per hour. They would also install other speed control equipment and add more lights as to prevent future accidents.

By Kasem Chanathinart
The Nation