UPDATE: Foreign Tourist Killed in Bus Accident in Thailand

March 13, 2012

If you have driven around Thailand or watched the Thai news as much as I do, then you will know that Thailand’s roads can be very dangerous. In particular at night. I would never go on a long distance night bus for two main reasons: valuable items are often stolen from bags while you are sleeping and the driver is often under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In just the last few days I have reported on three separate inter-provincial bus accidents in Thailand. The first accident I passed myself in Rangsit in Northern Bangkok. The driver dosed off and hit the barrier in the center of the road flipping the bus over. Luckily no-one was killed. The passengers on a long-distance bus in Sa Kaeo the other day weren’t so lucky. The driver was going down a hill when his brakes failed. The bus flipped over killing six people including a baby.

Another serious bus accident took place place in the early hours of Saturday morning at about 3:30 a.m. It was another night bus. This time filled with 24  foreign tourists who were travelling between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The majority of them were Europeans. I tweeted about this after I saw it being reported in the Thai media. The only information that I managed to get was that a bus flipped over in a heavy rainstorm in Chainat Province. First and only reports said one killed, 12 injured with four seriously. There has been no follow-ups. Certainly nothing in the English language press. Which, is not unusual. However, then I got an email from Rich Hartley who happened to be on the bus. He was badly bruised and had to have stitches. He is still recovering in Bangkok. This is his story of the events:

“Coming home from Chiang Mai on the night bus was the cheapest but certainly not the safest option. The bus flipped over at high speed on a busy highway due to a typically unsafe Thai bus driver. I’m alive but one woman wasn’t so lucky. We found her dead at the back of the bus. Her head had been crushed to a pulp from a big double seat that had flew off from its fittings. Typical Thai bus driver was pissed out of his head. He ran off when it happened. This is the part of Thailand that people dont see, this happens all the time! Im in a bit of pain but I’m alive which is the main thing.

“I was asleep when it happened. I only woke up because I had been thrown to the other side of the bus and my mate who was travelling with me was screaming at me because he thought that I was dead. It took a while to kick in, I was walking around dizzy and confused, and at the same time trying to drag others out. It just felt like a really bad dream only unfortunately it was real. Although I’m in a lot of pain it could have ended up a lot worse. The bus was only half full which helped bring casualties down. Not one seat was fixed to the floor and the aftermath of the crash was just chaotic. The bus company have paid for my hospital fee’s but this can’t go on. Every week you read about these crashes on the forums and nothing ever changes. This is just another reason to why I am disliking Thailand more and more.”

Channel 4 in the UK recently did a story called “The Undocumented Dangers of Thailand’s Roads”. This is what they said: “It is a top tourist destination – but what the guidebooks don’t tell you is that Thailand’s roads are lethal. Now a group of mothers whose sons died in a bus crash are campaigning to change that. Bruno Melling Firth, Max Boomgaarden-Cook, and Conrad Quashie – all 19 years old – arrived in Thailand for a 9-week holiday in June. They had saved up all year for a final holiday together before starting university. Four days into their trip, they boarded a night bus in Bangkok. There were heading for the ancient city of Chang Mai, which lies 11 hours by road to the north. They didn’t make it….” Read full story by Channel 4 News >>>

Although I spend most of my time promoting Thailand as a tourist destination, it would be remiss of my if I didn’t warn people of the dangers lurking beneath the surface. Unlike tourist brochures and some of the travel bloggers out there, I do make a point of giving both the good and the bad. By doing that I believe that you will be able to make a fair assessment of any risks. Often if you are forewarned of scams or potential dangers, then it is possible to avoid them and have an enjoyable holiday. I’m not trying to put Thailand down by pointing out these blemishes. All countries have them. I just want people to be safe and go home after their holidays with some good memories.

For news about the real Thailand, you can follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow.

60 Responses to UPDATE: Foreign Tourist Killed in Bus Accident in Thailand

  1. Mark on March 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you for this article Richard. I’ve warned people about the buses but for some reason they still get on. Playing the odds I guess. I will send them this article next time.

    Considering how cheap you can get flights from CNX to BKK if you purchase a few weeks in advance, I always opt to fly. Train is a great way to go if you can get a sleeper. It’s a shame they couldn’t add more train service (extra train, more cars) as they always seem to sell out.

    • SH on March 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

      I too advise people not to travel by bus now in Thailand, particularly the cheap tourist buses that connect Bangkok with other popular tourist destinations. Save up the extra money and book Air Asia flights or a get a train ticket in advance, they’re both infinitely safer than the buses. These types of bus companies are simply not to be trusted unfortunately.

    • Polly Cook on May 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      hi all,

      I am one of the mothers who lost their 3 boys in a crash on the Chiang Mai road in thailand last June. We have been busy on exposing the lies of both the thai police and the bus company responsible and both the Uk parliament and top thai academics, media ad politicians ar aware of the situation. We were told that all the other passengers on the bus were ‘sleeping’ at the time of the accident and tus could not give statements! the report by john sparks clearly shows the scale of the problem. Please, if any one knows any thing about this crash, was on the bus, or knows any one who was , please get in touch with me through our website http://www.mbcfoundation.org.uk. We are now in the UN Decade of road Safety and it is important to get to the truth so reform can be achieved for both tourists and Thai people.

      • Richard Barrow on May 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm

        I am sorry about your loss. Sadly this is something that is still happening on a regular interval on Thai roads. I am glad you are helping to highlight this and I hope something might be done. At least to warn people of the dangers of night buses. I do the @191Thailand Twitter account and I think in just the last few days alone I have reported on three bus crashes. There was a bad one last week with five deaths.

        • Lauren on July 12, 2012 at 5:16 am

          I am so sorry about your loss too. My daughter was involved in one of the bus crashes you mentioned Richard last week. The details are sketchy as she was thrown from the bus and doesn’t remember much about what happened. The police report needs to be translated so that we can get full details. This seems to be a huge danger in this part of the world which is not well publicised at all.

  2. simon beards on March 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    hey, i was on the bus with Richard and i woke up 2 minutes before the crash.
    Everyone seemed to be sound a sleep in la la land when suddenly out of nowhere the driver swerved left then right and then at full speed turned over on the left side (the side i was sat on).
    It was horrible, somehow rich ended up on the right hand side of me!
    there was silence for a minute and the screams and cries for help!
    after checking myself for injuries i helped rich out who had blood pouring from his head and in a bad way! then i moved seats out the way and got 5 more people out the sun roof. Then i got to the last lady……she was dead already!!

    My anger in it all is that the officials (aside from the ambulance crew) took ages to get there and when they got there it seemed the injured farangs were the only ones were helping, and taking it seriously! It must happen that much that they take bets or something?? This sad event has given me only one option…….Go home to England!!

  3. yg on March 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    “I would never go on a long distance night bus for two main reasons: valuable items are often stolen from bags while you are sleeping and the driver is often under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

    Never encountered these on all of my long distance overnight bus trips over the past two decades with the reliable bus companies that hold government concessionaires (e.g. Nakhonchai Air, Transport Co., Sombat Tour Co.) & operate out of the public bus stations. All these problems seem to happen only with the ‘Khao San Road’ tourist buses operated by private companies that seem less than legit, as well as private company buses chartered by Thai people for tours & school trips.

    “This time filled with 24 foreign tourists who were travelling between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.”

    Sounds like one of the ‘Khao San Road’ tourist buses, based on the route & the fact that most (if not all) passengers were foreign tourists. (The majority of passengers on board the government buses are Thais.)

  4. Ben on March 14, 2012 at 4:32 am

    About “Another serious bus accident”:

    Thanks for the news. It is the first I see. Could you provide links to the local Thai news? Where did you get the picture from that scene?

    For the record: the 11 people who escaped the hospital where not really uninjured. I would say 2 where close to uninjured and 9 had similar condition as Rich Hartley. 9 continued to Bangkok and 2 stayed with friends, who got hospitalized.

    I would totally recommend not to use big buses in Thailand, after what I learned from the internet.

    • Richard Barrow on March 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      The picture came from Rich Hartley. I saw something on the Thai evening news. Earlier in the day I saw an SMS from a Thai news service. Nothing in English.

      • S on March 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm

        Two links in thai concerning this accident: ThaiRath and KhaoSod

  5. Spencer on March 14, 2012 at 7:44 am

    What a nightmare. I feel sorry for the family.

  6. F.Luke on March 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    If you are flying around Thailand, fly with AirAsia , new aeroplanes with excellent service and good value. You can book online as well.

  7. Ryan on March 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I was on the bus as well the on that flipped over with 24 tourists. I am still in Bangkok hospital have fractured my spine and compressed a disc. I was one of the lucky ones though apparently, because I wont be needing surgery. One thing I did notice when we took our first night bus to Chiang Mai was that the drivers were driving way too fast. This most likely was the reason why our bus hydroplaned and flipped over. I was on the right side, so I woke up with chairs on top of me, which clearly showed that none of the seats were bolted in. My friend who was on the left side was ok, until we got to Bangkok and she noticed that her arm was in a lot of pain. Turns out that she has broken her arm and is in serious pain all the time now when she is trying to move.

    • MIke on March 15, 2012 at 5:18 am

      Hey Ryan,glad to hear you are going to be ok. Liz was probably in more shock than you. Ohhh and Happy Birthday :) Hope your flight home will be a safe one.

    • Julia on March 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Ryan is this you who was with us in Chainat hospital?
      If yes, when is zour flight home?

      Get well soon!!
      Julia and Manuela

      • Rich Hartley on March 16, 2012 at 1:27 am

        Hi Julia. I think you were sat behind me on the bus. I was the English guy sat at the top of the stairs. Remember?

        • Julia on March 18, 2012 at 11:08 am

          Hey Rich,

          no I think you got the “wrong” Julia
          I sat downstairs. However I tried to find you on facebook but i could not. May you please add me as your friend? I really would like to know all new information.
          My name> Julia Mirjana Meier

          Thanks!!!

          • Rich Hartley on March 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm

            Hi Julia. I couldnt find you on FB either. Try searching my login email address which is dj_geez_r@yahoo.com
            Hope to hear from you soon.

    • edwinJ on March 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      Hey Ryan, Sorry to hear about the accident & just before your Birthday, a year to remember eh…. We are glad to hear that no surgery was required & you will be coming home for medical attention. Credit goes to you for purchasing international medical insurance. Happy Birthday with best wishes for a quick recovery from all of us in Houston.

  8. Dongho Won on March 15, 2012 at 12:38 am

    MUST avoid such kind of unlawful Khosan coaches packed with foreigners. Just get a ride on what native Thai inland travelers take.

  9. P on March 15, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Hi, who was travelling this bus? Tourists from which countries? Thanks for answer

    • Richard Barrow on March 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

      All I have is this from an eyewitness: “All passengers (22/24) were from Europe including 2 brits who are working out here as English teachers”.

      • Ryan on March 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

        also 2 canadians me and my friend

  10. Chris on March 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Where did you book that bus? Was it an official bus from the terminal?

    I found what yg was pointing out: When using the official busses, e.g. from Nakhonchai Air (my fav company) I so far never felt unsafe, they are not speeding and even provide seat belts on every seat. I also saw they do alco-test on driver-change when taking long distances.

    Chris

    • Dongho Won on March 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Also touch-pad screen is provided on each seat in all First Class coaches of Nakhonchai Air. It’s just like a business class in airflight.

  11. Assata on March 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    So Sorry to hear this. I wish you all patience to get back to healthy physically and emotionally and condolence to your families.

    Like wise the city buses and mini vans can be rough on the Bangkok roads as well, but now that I think of it … “It was the drivers”. They drive much to fast. I ended up in the hospital after a rocky ride on the hilly city highway.

    Also caution on rooms in Ho Chi Minh City in the backpackers accommodations: Pumped in sleeping gas, then wipe out of all your valuables. I read to victim blogs to late.

    Assata

  12. Rich Hartley on March 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Ryan, and all those on board this bus who commented here. Out of all those who were hospitalized, including me, I herd that four people were there over night and then released. I heard this from the bus company whom which I phoned only yesterday to see if I were entitled any kind of compensation. A long shot I know but its better to be told no than not know at all. They also told me that the driver, who was arrested at the scene, is still in police custody. They wouldn’t tell me if he fell asleep or whether he was drunk or on drugs or not. I guess it doesn’t matter. I just hope justice prevails and that bastard gets a heavy sentence. This whole situation isn’t just a one off thing. It happens all the time, even in the little mini vans that transport you shorter differences. I had to ask my driver to slow down when coming back from BKK (to Petchaburi) only two days after the crash! Its not good enough. Thai’s just dont give a shit. Ive been here 14 months now and I hate this place. Im only here cause I need to save up a bit more cash before I can return home.

    Im still in Thailand for the foreseeable future. If anyone wants any more updates from this incident then feel free to email me (rich.lee.hartley@gmail.com) or add me on facebook (Rich Richmeister Hartley)

    • Richard Barrow on March 15, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      In the fatal bus crash last year which saw five deaths, the bus driver was sentenced to two years in prison. In that bus, the seats weren’t bolted to the floor.

  13. Naadya Roël on March 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

    This is actually the first thing I’ve found about this accident!

    I was in this bus and I’m one of the badly hurt people. I was brought into the hospital with a multiple fractured skull and a brain-hemorraghe, which I had to be operated on immediately. My last operation is scheduled for tomorrow, to repair my broken facial bones. I’ll probably have to spend another 1-2 weeks in Bangkok Hospital…

    However, I’m ‘happy’ to finally read something about the crash! Are there any other new-sources?

    • Richard Barrow on March 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Sounds very painful. I hope you make a full recovery. No, there hasn’t been anything else which is why I decided to make a record here. Too many accidents like this go unrecorded.

    • Rich Hartley on March 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Jesus! I hope you are ok. If you have trouble with the bus company let me know. I spoke to them a few days ago and they are arse holes! The company is called Nam Khong and their number is 053 874 321 or 053 874 278. I know their insurance company details also. You shouldn’t have to pay a thing, they told me they would pay all hospital fee’s and so they should! The driver is still in police custody. Get well soon and be in touch. I will be in Thailand for the next few months as I work here so I’ll try and help the best I can.

      • Ryan on March 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        so glad to hear your ok naadya i was sitting directly behind you was a bit worried when i saw you after the crash!! what hospital are you in?

        • Naadya Roël on March 17, 2012 at 9:21 am

          I’m in Bangkok Hospital, apparently one of the best ones in Thailand :) I think I remember you! Are you ok, did you get hurt?

          Thanks everybody, for the replies! I’m doing quite good now, my last operation will be in a few hours.

          • Ryan on March 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

            im in bangkok hospital as well. good luck with the surgery!! I fractured my spine, compressed a disc, and broke a rib. but im actually lucky no surgery needed. They are flying me home on monday what room are you in? I’m in 1614 I could stop by and say hello

  14. Ben on March 17, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Please join the facebook group, if you were involved

    Chainat Bus Accident March 10, 2012

    Otherwise we might appreciate some privacy.

    @ Richard: Could you provide the link to the original Thai information you found? For me it is easier to get Thai translated than to search the internet of Thailand. Thanks again for bringing this to the the English web.

    • Richard Barrow on March 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

      I only saw SMS news service and brief CH.3 news report.

      • Ben on March 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        Thanks for the 2 links (one and two). I put them in the google translator. The automatic translation needs a lot of interpretation.

    • Ben on March 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      I discontinued the facebook group. If anybody still thinks we need one please make a new one.

  15. Naadya Roël on March 17, 2012 at 10:04 am

    O, by the way!

    Is there anybody who has some information about the luggage?
    I lost mine during the accident and still haven’t retrieved it yet…
    is it maybe stored somewhere?

    I think I’ll try to contact the bus-company after surgery!

    • Ben on March 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      The police had it all on a pick-up truck. They brought it to the emergency room where most people got treated around 6 in the morning. Many things where still in custody, when the bus left to Bangkok at 7 o’clock. I assume they took you straight to hospital with the first ambulance after the crash. I would guess that luggage, which has not been collected, is still with the police in the Chianat region. The hospital people should be able to make an inquiry for you.

  16. Sas on March 18, 2012 at 2:41 am

    My mom and her friend were on that bus. The friend of my mom is found in a hospital in bangkok. But we still don’t know anything about my mom. Does anyone know something about 2 Dutch woman, one blond haired one dark haired, aged around 50 years old.

    I really hope someone can tell us something!

    • Ryan on March 18, 2012 at 10:56 am

      i believe one of them is staying down the hall from me. try calling bangkok hospital and asking if she is here? that would be your best bet as of right now. what is her name I can go and ask for you!

    • Julia on March 18, 2012 at 11:26 am

      My friend saw an older woman, but she is not sure, can you send us a picture? yuleika@gmx.net

      Have you tried to call Chainat Police Station? Or all hospitals around Chainat? Usually there may be one who is able to speak broken English!!!

    • Naadya Roël on March 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Heeft de blonde vrouw kort haar en was ze redelijk stevig/gezet? En kwam ze uit Zaandam (of in ieder geval de vriendin met wie ze aan het reizen was)? Ik heb namelijk met 2 Nederlandse vrouwen gesproken toen we vertrokken, achterin de bus. Een van de twee vrouwen ligt hier inderdaad in het ziekenhuis, kan het dan zijn dat je moeder de kortharige dame is?
      Heel veel sterkte in ieder geval, ik hoop voor je dat je snel (goed!) nieuws krijgt!

  17. Sas on March 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for all help. We have by now officially received the bad news.

    • Naadya Roël on March 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Oh no, I’m so sorry!
      I wish you all the strength and support in the world…

      We’ll think about you – love.

    • Gert de Vries on March 21, 2012 at 2:54 am

      Sas,
      heel veel sterkte en gecondoleerd met het verlies van je moeder.
      Hoewel hier geen namen genoemd worden en ik dat zo wil houden ben ik er zeker van dat ik je moeder ken (nog van de lagere en middelbare school) en hele goede herinneringen aan haar meedraag.
      Ik heb verder geen adres oid vandaar via deze blog.
      Nogmaals sterkte met dit enorme verlies. Gert.

    • Gert de Vries on March 21, 2012 at 3:00 am

      Sas,
      gecondoleerd met het verlies van je moeder. Ik ken haar nog van de lagere en middelbare school en draag warme herinneringen aan haar. Nogmaals sterkte. Gert de Vries

  18. Astrid Nierop on March 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Gecondoleerd met het verlies van je moeder!

  19. kataria gorzynski on March 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Hey, even i was in the bus, and i was one of the four most injured. 14 days after the accident i m still in bangkok hspital. its good to see the page, because i dont reember anything.
    i was sitting in the verry back seat on the right side of the bus. i have no idea what happend to me but my whole body is ful o scarfs and injures. my spine was broken at two parts, my knie was broken i had deep cuts on my whole right body side and there is a long scarve through my my face, my skalp was totally pulled of from my head and was hangng over my right ear.
    onother girls from the accident who was with me in the ambulance said , she couldnt belive someone who is looking the way i did, can be still alive.

    i m verry lucky to be in this hospotal, because they saved my life. when i reached here i had no feeling in my arms and legs, becase of the broken spine. i had 4 surgeries and i m recovering fast, but its still not sure if i m gonna be totally fine afterwards.

    i would be very grateful, if someone who was in the bus added me on facebook (katarina gorzynski) to tell me a little more about what happend.

    all the best to the injured and a bigest thanks to all the helpers who safed us out of there!

    • Naadya Roël on March 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Oh my god! This is terrible!
      I just got out of Bangkok hospital a few days ago, but had I known you were there as well I would have tried to find you and visit you. By now I know quite a few details about what happened, but I still cant remember anything either.

      Hope you’ll fully recover, it’s amazing you’re (we’re) still alive!
      The thing that shocks me the most is that I probably know who you are!… because I was in your seat first.. but you were there after I came back from the front of the bus, so I said you could just stay there and I’d move. My god, I feel shocked.

      I send you all the strength in the world to get well and I’ll think about you! Do you already have an idea on how long you’ll need to remain in the hospital? Are you alone or with friends, or people from home?

      Love.

      • Hanna Stierl on March 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        Hey Naadya,
        its really scary! do u remember me? im kattis friend and sat in front of you on the left site before u moved in the front…
        i heard u were in the same hospital nd i wanted to visit u when i was better bt i couldnt find u nd i had less time :( i was really shocked when i read ur comments here, but im glad u r recovering nd finally out of hospital. are u back to netherlands? even i ve no memories bout the accident, but im kind of glad, cause i dont want to remember…
        all the best
        Hanna

    • Ashish Solanki on March 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      MAY GOD PROVIDE YOU ALL THE STRENGTH OF THE WORLD FOR A PERFECT RECOVERY!

  20. Anonymous on March 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    hey to everyone!
    i was on the bus too, together with katarina, sitting on the left site in the back of the bus. im back to germany now, but had to stay 10 days in bangkok hospital as well. i have a fractured shoulder and several fractured facial bones, which they fixed in a surgery. luckily this hospital is a very good one and i will recover completely.
    even i dont remember anything, so i would be glad to get some more information…
    maybe add me on fb (hanna stierl) and plaese let me know about any news…i hope the bus company and the driver have to pay for this horrible accident…
    i got the majority of my luggage back, the police brought it to the hospital in chainat, but some things, like my glasses and my music player are lost. luckily all things are replaceable, im just glad to be here…
    to all the injured, get well soon!!!

  21. Liz on March 29, 2012 at 7:24 am

    We have forwarded this email the Canadian Embassy to warn Canadian Citizens about the danagers of traveling by bus in Thailand. I would suggest you all notify your embassies. This is so wrong.

  22. Liz on April 1, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Canadian Foreign Affairs and Embassy has now listed on their website about THE DANGERS OF TRAVELLING BY BUS IN THAILAND. This is because of this blog and article about the accidents listed above. Hopefully this will keep others safe and aware of the dangers in Thailand. I would suggest all contact their governments. Regards, Liz Ryan’s mom

  23. Chang Noi on April 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Wow that was a silence moment of reading the replies of this thread.

    Traveling on the Thai roads is more dangerous as in example western europe.
    Traveling long hauls with busses is even more dangerous, no matter if this are private “Khao San” busses or government busses. ALthough I must say that “Nakhon Chai Air” is one of the bus companies that seems to take their responsibility very serious and in mine opinion are the best in Thailand.

    Traveling by train or airplane seems much saver in Thailand.
    Mind you there are a lot of very good drivers in Thailand, but commercial pressure makes drivers doing stupid things (driving too long, driving too fast, driving at night).

    Take care.

    Chang Noi

  24. Igor on February 5, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I also advise people not to travel by cheap buses in Thailand now, particularly the tourist buses that connect Bangkok with other popular tourist destinations.

  25. ken on March 24, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Is it also unsafe to travel with Nakhonchai air?

    • Richard Barrow on March 25, 2014 at 10:38 am

      I think they have seatbelts don’t they? That is becoming more common now.

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