Seven killed, 88 injured after 2nd train went by. A preliminary investigation has found a switching error was to blame for the derailment of a crowded passenger train in Hua Hin early yesterday morning.
Seven passengers were killed in the derailment and scores of others injured. All trains from the South to Bangkok had to be suspended. Total damage has been estimated at about Bt100 million.
Eight of the Bangkok-Trang train’s 16 carriages left the tracks about 100 metres from Khao Tao station in heavy rain at about 4.45am. Local officials and rescue workers removed the injured from the wrecked carriages and sent them to hospital.
All seven fatalities were female, including a two-year-old girl. Some 88 passengers, six of them foreigners, were injured. Of these, 22 were taken to Pran Buri, San Paolo, Thanarat Army Camp and Hua Hin hospitals.
Names of passengers on the train are available at www.huahinhospital.go.th or people can call 0 3252 3000 ext 8131, or 08 7110 1335. The Hua Hin hospital identified five of the dead as: Orapin Jaijit, 42; Kanokluck Thabunrueng, 2; Naruemarn Nayasunthornkul, 50; Wimon Somjing, 43; and Kalayakorn Somjing, 41. Two other women who died were in their 30s and mid-40s. Darawan Butrying, a passenger who got 12 stitches for a head wound, said she was half asleep in the third carriage when she heard a series of banging noises and screams before she was thrown out of her seat. She and fellow passengers tried to find their way out. Many had to smash windows to reach rescue workers.
The State Railways of Thailand (SRT) president Yuthana Thap-charoen, who inspected the scene, said a special committee had been set up to probe the cause of the derailment and the result was expected within five days.
He said trains were frequently checked and maintained, but they would investigate if the crash was caused by human or mechanical error.
An informed source said while the ill-fated train approached the station, another train transporting goods from Hua Hin passed through. It was suspected the Bangkok-bound train went through a rail-switching signal that lead to the derailment.
As rescue trains from Bangkok and Nakhon Si Thammarat helped lift the damaged carriages, Yuthana said it would take at least a day to clear the scene to allow services to resume. Travellers with reserved train tickets could ask for refunds at the stations where they bought the tickets, and get other information on the 1690 hotline.
Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodhi, who visited the injured at Hua Hin hospital, said he had ordered doctors and blood supplies from Phetchaburi and Ratchaburi to be sent to the hospital. He said the ministry would take care of medical expenses for the injured.
PM Abhisit Vejjajiva also went to Hua Hin to visit injured passengers. Wirun Sakaekhum, president of the SRT Labour Union’s Hat Yai branch, said he had issued a statement jointly with the SRT Labour Union to offer condolences to victims.
The statement suggested a related factor was that train officials had been overworked, following a Cabinet resolution in July 1998 that cut nearly 100 SRT officials. It also referred to a lack of funding for train tool maintenance and called for the government and SRT executives, especially the SRT governor, to take responsibility.
Wirun said the accident reflected policy-level problems in SRT administration that needed to be fixed. He said the union wanted the government to solve these problems, especially the staff shortage and rail tools issue.
He said locomotives and carriages used on the southern route often needed attention up to three times a day, meaning officials had to remove and switch parts to keep services running.
The line between Thung Song and Hat Yai was also old and damaged, and train drivers had to slow down when passing through this section, especially during rain, he said.