Thailand zoo operator apologises for crash that killed 5, pledges compensation

Thailand zoo operator apologises for crash that killed 5, pledges compensation
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Zoological Park Organisation director Benjapol Nakprasert, along with Khon Kaen Zoo head Thewin Ratanawongsawat, held a press conference yesterday to apologise for the tram collision which killed five people and injured 55 others on Sunday.

The zoo, located 500km northeast of Bangkok, will be closed for five days as police probe the two-tram collision, with the investigation findings expected this month, Benjapol said. The Khon Kaen Zoo will resume services on Saturday.

The zoo and the company operating the trams have set up a committee to investigate the crash.

"This is the organisation's severest incident and we apologise for what happened. We will be responsible to those affected and will be stricter on privately-run internal transport services," Benjapol said, adding that the zoo would handle the funeral arrangements for those killed.

Benjapol said 25 victims were being treated at hospitals and the organisation would pay Bt100,000 (S$3,991) compensation to the families of each person killed, plus cover medical expenses of the injured.

The organisation would this week check on services and safety regulations at its seven zoos and one project that use trams to prevent another accident occurring, he said.

An initial investigation by police found that the accelerator on one tram got stuck, with the driver losing control going down a hill and running into another tram.

A private operator runs the zoo's 10-tram service on a three-year contract and the speed limit is 20km/h, Thewin said, affirming that the zoo would co-operate with the police probe and submit the two trams involved in the accident to police.

Injured tourist Narirat Thassanapak, who came with her family to conduct a morale-boosting rite at the scene of the accident yesterday, said everyone in her group of six was injured with her aunt sustaining a severe head injury. The family has been told to prepare for the worst.

"I never thought that a family vacation would end in horror. I still feel frightened even now. I understand it was an accident but I don't think I would sit in a tour tram like this for a very long time," she said.

Khao Suan Kwang superintendent Colonel Pichit Deeya said police filed charges against tram driver Surachai Lertmai, 38, for reckless driving causing death and injury.

As Surachai was not deemed a flight risk and backed by a company that is cooperating with police, he was granted bail for a Bt100,000-asset deposit.

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