TRANG – New Zealand Engineer Michael Coppins and a Thai National Rod Singkham, have been killed trying to rescue a couple who passed out due to a gas leak at a biomass power plant in southern Thailand.
Michael Paul Coppins and a 31-year-old Thai employee died at the plant in Trang province, 680 kilometres south of Bangkok, as they tried to reach the couple inside a three-metre wide, three-storey ventilation chimney.
In a statement tonight, the family said Coppins, 51, originally went to Malaysia to help repair a long house for the Eban people from Sarawak with a team of people from Glendene Baptist church.
Born in west Auckland, Coppins went to Henderson Valley Primary school, Bruce McLaren intermediate and Henderson High School and completed a three year diploma of missiology at Laidlaw College which was originally the Bible College of New Zealand.
He moved to Malaysia in 1993 where he married his wife and had three daughters.
An engineer, Coppins had managed and worked on several projects throughout Malaysia and adjoining countries.
The family said his latest project was for Renewable Energy Plus based in Kuala Lumpur on the biomass gasification plant in Southern Thailand. They said it was a cause he believed in and was passionate about as he was making a positive change for the future of the environment.
Police said the New Zealander and Thai man died going to the rescue of a married couple who had passed out from toxic gas believed to be ammonia.
Police Lieutenant Chalongchai Chapan was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying the accident happened shortly after midnight (local time). Police rushed to the scene and reported chaotic scenes at the site.
The unconscious couple were later pulled to safety by other employees of the biomass plant which is under construction in Yan Ta Khao district.
Plan Creations is building the plant using leftover rubber sawdust and tree roots to fuel a 5-megawatt power generator to supply its electricity needs and sell the excess to the local electricity authority.
Police are investigating the incident.
The New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok has been liaising with the family and is providing them