A tour bus heading to a Buddhist temple in the Thai province of Chachoengsao collided with a train on Sunday, killing at least 20 people and injuring 30, according to local news reports. The accident took place at 8:05 a.m. local time near the rural Khlong Kwaeng Klan railway station, some 70 kilometers east of the capital Bangkok.
The bus, which was carrying about 60 factory workers to a Buddhist temple for a merit-making ceremony, was reportedly hit by an oncoming freight train while attempting to cross the tracks, sending the bus onto its side. The train remained on the rails.
More than 40 passengers were transported to nearby hospitals for treatment, according to provincial hospital director Sombat Chutimanukul: “Four are in critical condition and eight remain under observation” out of the 23 admitted to her hospital, she told reporters on Sunday. (The ASEAN Post)
The governor of Chachoengsao Province, Maitree Tritilanon, said that the railroad crossing had warnings for oncoming traffic but lacked a barrier to block vehicles from crossing the tracks when trains are approaching. Maitree said the province planned to install speed bumps and barriers, and to cut down trees near the crossing to improve visibility.
District chief officer Prathueng Yookassem suggested that: “It was raining. Perhaps the driver did not see the train.” (The Washington Post)
“Let this case be a lesson, and we will make improvements at risky spots so such accidents will not take place again,” Maitree said in a statement. (CNN)
Scenes from the incident showed the bus on its side with debris scattered across the railroad track and beyond. The roof on the back half of the bus was torn off. White sheets covered the deceased as rescue workers moved the injured to awaiting ambulances and onlookers gathered.
Factory worker Samruan Thongdee said he was having breakfast nearby when he heard the crash. “I called my colleagues to come to help” before the emergency workers arrived, the 57-year-old man said. “I managed to drag a woman from the wreckage and helped her up onto the train platform.” (The ASEAN Post)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Thailand’s roads rank among the deadliest in the world. In its 2018 global road safety report, The WHO estimated that 22,941 people die each year in traffic-related incidents in Thailand, the highest rate of road deaths in Southeast Asia. Despite numerous safety campaigns over the years, there has been little improvement.
The bus passengers were traveling from Samut Prakan Province to a Buddhist temple in Chachoengsao for a merit-making ceremony marking the end of vassa, the rains retreat commonly described as Buddhist Lent.
Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, expressed condolences for the victims and ordered government assistance for those involved. According to government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri, Prayut expressed sorrow for the collision and ordered the provincial authorities to do their best to help the injured and relatives of the dead. He also assigned organizations to investigate the accident to plan future preventive measures.
20 killed on temple trip in Thailand as bus, train collide (CNN)
Thai PM expresses sadness over train-bus collision killing 20 people (Pattaya Mail)
Bus-train collision in central Thailand leaves 17 dead (The Washington Post)
Why people keep dying on Thailand’s roads, the most lethal in Southeast Asia (CNN)
18 Dead In Thailand Bus-Train Collision (The ASEAN Post)
Global status report on road safety 2018 (World Health Organization)