A total of 13 Malaysian tourists, comprising of 5 men and 8 women aged between 20 and 80, were confirmed to have died in a tragic bus accident in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand yesterday (20th December). The report was confirmed by Datuk Nazirah Hussain, Malaysian ambassador to Thailand.
In a report by The Star Online, Nazirah said that details of the victims will not be released until the Thai police have completed their investigations. 9 Malaysians survived the tragedy, but 4 people are said to be in critical condition while 5 others sustained minor injuries.
The bus reportedly ran off a mountainous road, hit a power pole, and slammed into a big rock and trees in Chiang Mai’s Doi Saket district at around 11:30am (12:30pm Malaysian time).
Rescue worker Uthai Pollaharn said that the bus driver was speeding on national highway No 118 through Ban Pang Fan village between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces in the North after colliding with a Nissan truck in the Danmae Kajan area of Chiang Rai. The tragedy then happened when the driver lost control at the 43rd km. Uthai added that this accident was the worst accident with many casualties in the area.
Krissana Fongdawirat, the driver of the Nissan truck who chased after the bus, was not hurt in the accident. He alerted police about the bus, only to find that it had crashed. Operated by Weerapan Tour, the bus was carrying 3 other passengers, a tour guide, a bus conductor, and the 58-year-old driver who is identified as Somporn Bualuang. The nationalities of the other passengers had yet to be determined.
The 22 victims from Batu Pahat were sent to 4 different hospitals namely Mai Bangkok Hospital, McCormick Hospital, Doi Saket Hospital, and Suan Dok Hospital in Chiang Mai.
Most of the Malaysian tourists involved in the accident are senior citizens in their 50s and 60s. Chiu Travel Sdn Bhd general manager Terence Yung, who handled the group on the 5-day tour, revealed that they were either family members or close friends.
The group left Singapore by flight to Chiang Mai and went on a sight-seeing trip around the city and Chiang Rai on Thursday. They were supposed to return on Monday.
According to Terrence, his agency was alerted of the accident by the Thai authorities at about 4pm yesterday.
“We have already contacted the next of kin, but we have yet to get a full report on what really happened, and there have also been conflicting reports. Our priority now is to sort out the list of travellers for identification purposes,” he added.
In a Facebook posting, the agency also asked family members of the victims to contact them for updates:
At the time of writing, a total of 15 family members of the Malaysian victims will board a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok at around 1pm today and arrive in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in at 5pm.
Terence said that the family members would then travel to Chiang Mai on a domestic flight. He told reporters:
They are from 7 families who will identify the victims who had died and those who are safe. 3 of our staff will accompany them to process the death certificates and bring home the remains.
“We expect the process to bring back the bodies to take about 4 to 7 days,” he said. He added that an emergency team was formed to “obtain all the details before informing the families on the status of the victims around 9pm (Sunday)”. According to Terrence, the victims’ families were devastated upon receiving the news, but had remained calm.“We share their grief and offer our heartfelt sympathies. We also lost one of our staff who had led the group,” he said.
“We share their grief and offer our heartfelt sympathies. We also lost one of our staff who had led the group,” he added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak revealed through his social media accounts that he was saddened by the news of the horrific bus accident in Chiang Mai.
I am sad to hear of the accident in Chiang Mai where 13 of our nationals were killed. I express my condolences to the families of the victims.
“The government will ensure that all efforts are taken to bring back the remains of the victims and that assistance are provided to the families of the victims,” he added.
Saya sedih mendengar berita kemalangan di Chiang Mai di mana 13 rakyat kita terkorban. Saya mengucapkan takziah kepada keluarga mangsa (1/2)
— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) December 20, 2015
Krjn akan memastikan segala usaha dibuat bagi membawa pulang jenazah serta bantuan diberikan kepada keluarga mangsa warganegara Msia (2/2)
— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) December 20, 2015
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also took to his Twitter to expresse his condolences:
Takziah kpd keluarga 16 rakyat M'sia yg terkorban akibat kemalangan di Thailand. Diharap Duta kita lakukan terbaik utk urus semua jenazah.
— Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (@DrZahidHamidi) December 20, 2015
Translation: “My condolences to the families of the 13 Malaysian nationals who died in the accident in Thailand. It is hoped that our ambassador will do her best to bring back all the victims.”
Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims perished in the bus tragedy.
UPDATE (22nd December, 4:23pm):
According to State Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism executive council chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong, the remains of the 13 Malaysian victims of the Chiang Mai bus crash are expected to arrive at Senai Airport in Malaysia tomorrow (23rd December) evening.
After visiting relatives of the victims, Tee told reporters:
The Royal Malaysian Air Force will be using their C-130 plane to bring back the bodies as well as the victims who sustained injuries in the incident.
“Wisma Putra has informed the state government that DNA tests are still underway in Chiang Mai to identify the victims,” he added.
According to Tee, the state government would coordinate the arrival of the remains before handing them to their respective families.
A team of medical officers will be on board the plane as we are also bringing back those injured in the incident.
He also said that the state government thanked Thailand for its help throughout the whole process.