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Passenger Van Crashes into Wild Elephant in South Central Thailand, Killing Two, Injuring Nine



BANGKOK – Two passengers have been killed and nine others injured, eight badly, after a passenger van carrying them for a “thod krathin” merit-making ceremony a temple hit a wild elephant crossing a road in South Central Thailand on Saturday.

The Elephant was also injured and fled into Lad Krathing forest plantation following the crash that occurred in Ban Huay Som village, tambon Lad Krathing at around 5am, said Pol Lt Col Nurat Chanthakhun, investigation chief at Sanam Chai Khet police station.

Police found a passenger van badly damaged about 500m from a bridge across Huay Som canal.

The driver, identified later as Somchai Sapsamruay, 54, and female passenger Yada Saennamwong, 47, were killed. Their bodies were trapped in the wreckage.

Nine other passengers, eight of whom were women, were hurt. All but one were seriously injured and rushed to a nearby hospital.

A toenail of the elephant involved in the crash was found and there were also traces of blood in the nearby forest.

A police investigation found that the ill-fated van and two other vans were on the way to take a group of residents in Tha Takiab district of Chachoengsao to Roi Et province for a thod krathin religious ceremony. The vans left the district at 4am.

The van involved in the crash was the second one, with 11 people including the driver.

When it arrived at the scene, a large elephant suddenly emerged from the forest and crossed the road.

As visibility was poor due to heavy fog, the driver did not see the jumbo was crossing the road. The van then rammed into the pachyderm, which fell on the front section of the van and its windshield.

The force of the crash killed two and injured other passengers on board. The elephant, believed to sustain injuries, fled to the forest.

Officials at Khao Ang Rue Nai wildlife sanctuary were despatched to look for the injured jumbo. They had yet to find the animal.

Rescue workers try to retrieve dead and injured passengers from a van following a crash with a wild elephant in Sanam Chai Khet district, Chachoengsao, early on Saturday. – Photo Sonthanaporn Inchan

Boonmee Khaodee, 52, the driver of the first van, said the three vans were on the way to take 30 passengers for the merit-making ceremony in northeastern Roi Et province.

When he drove near the scene, he noticed one elephant stood at the construction site of an iron fence about 20m from the road. Shortly later, the following van got involved in the crash.

He drove back to the crash scene. The elephant fell on the front of the van. It subsequently got up and fled into the forest. He alerted the driver of the third van about the crash.

Later in the afternoon, another wild elephants was injured when a SUV rammed into it on a road in Saman Chai Khet district, not far from the scene of a fatal crash involving a van and one elephant early in the morning.

The second crash occurred at around 3.40pm on security road No 3259, or Chachoengsao-Wang Nam Yen road.

Police inspect a damaged SUV vehicle following a crash with one of five wild elephants in Sanam Chai Khet district, Chachoengsao on Saturday afternoon – Photo Sonthanaporn Inchan

The front section of the black SUV with Bangkok licence plates was badly damaged, but the driver was unhurt.

The driver, whose name was not revealed, said he was driving from Wang Nam Yen district of Sa Kaeo to buy goods for Sunday’s merit-making at a temple when five wild elephants emerged from the forest and suddenly crossed the road.

He was unable to apply brakes in time, causing his vehicle to ram into one of the pachyderms. The jumbo was hit in the left leg and fled into the forest with the other elephants.

Another team of officials began the search for the second injured elephant.

The accident scene was about 1km away from the scene of the van-elephant crash.

By Sonthanaporn Inchan
Bangkok Post