PETALING JAYA - The Thai driver of the bus that plunged into a ravine killing 13 Malaysians aboard claimed that he had lost control while overtaking three other vehicles as it went downhill towards Chiang Mai.
Somporn Bualuang, 58, said that he had swerved quickly to the left to avoid oncoming traffic.
But the bus collided with an oncoming vehicle and plunged into the ravine in the Doi Saket district, about 40km from Chiang Mai.
Somporn, who sustained fractures on his left arm, is warded at a hospital under police custody.
Somporn, who spoke through an interpreter, did not want to say if he was speeding to avoid another motorist chasing after him for running away from an earlier accident that occurred in Danmae Kajan area in Chiang Rai.
The chartered bus was heading to Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai on that ill-fated Sunday.
Thai media had reported that the driver of the car in the first accident involving the bus, Krissana Fongdawirat, had chased after the bus. Krissana had alerted the police about the accident.
Sources said the police had set up a roadblock not far away, but the second accident occurred before the roadblock.
Chiu Travel Sdn Bhd general manager Terence Yung hit out at the media for labelling the driver as "rogue" even before the authorities had completed their investigations into the crash.
The travel agency's director Chiu Siew Lian could not hold back her tears when contacted yesterday.
"I lost a relative too in the incident. We lost our young tour guide Png Ee Ting in the incident. She was my daughter-in-law's sister," she said, adding that Png, 23, had been working at the company for three years.
"Words can't describe how I feel right now," said Chiu.
An autopsy was conducted at the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital.
Chiang Mai Governor Pawin Chamniprasart has opened a one-stop contact centre at the hospital to help family members and the injured victims.
In Batu Pahat, Yung said each of the traveller in the Malaysian group had paid about RM2,000 (S$655) to tour the northern part of Thailand.
They were supposed to return home yesterday from Singapore.
Yung said the agency was also helping family members to travel to Thailand to identify the bodies.