The State Railway of Thailand has dismissed the train driver and cut the salary of the train mechanic and caretaker by 15 per cent for 10 months after concluding they were responsible for the accident in Prachuab Khiri Khan on October 5.
SRT Deputy Governor Pakorn Tangjetsakao said the investigating committee had interrogated eight witnesses and concluded that the accident had been caused by human error because the signalling, rail and locomotive systems were functioning properly.
The driver, Rerngsak Phanthep, admitted that he had fallen asleep when the train was passing the red light at Wang Phong Station. He also testified that he had taken an antihistamine pill for his flu before he went on duty that day and that he didn’t hear the warning on the walkie-talkie due to low battery. It was discovered that Rerngsak suffers from high-blood pressure and was not under the influence of alcohol. It was also discovered that he had only had one day off, on September 14, from the beginning of September until the day of the accident.
The train’s mechanic, Bowarnrat Suatim, and caretaker Uthai Raksaket said they did not hear the warning either.
Meanwhile, Pakorn said the committee proposed that Rerngsak be fired and Bowornrat and Uthai get their salaries docked for failing to monitor signals and train carriages. The punishment will go into effect as soon as the disciplinary committee, which will be formed in the next few days, approves it. All three employees have been suspended with immediate effect.
More than 80 members of the SRT labour union yesterday petitioned with Transport Minister Sophon Saram that he fire SRT Governor Yuthana Thapcharoen. Union leader Sawit Kaewwan said Yuthana had failed to do his job and that it was wrong of him to announce that the accident had been caused by human error before the investigation was launched. Sawit also noted that the condition of the equipment be studied and that authorities be fair to the employees.