At least 18 retirees were killed and 20 others were injured on Tuesday after a tour bus plunged into a deep ravine in northern Thailand, the latest disaster in the country with dangerous roads. The state-run Transport Company operated bus was hired to take 36 retirees on a holiday in the northern mountainous province of Uttradit. The victims were all former employees of CAT Telecom.
The Bangkok Post website reported that the accident took place while they were returning to Bangkok after their holiday trip. "18 people died and 20 were injured after a bus fell down into deep ravine because the driver was not familiar with the road," Police Colonel Ditsayadej Patcharapuwadol, commander of Uttaradit police station told AFP.
"The bus was on its way to Bangkok - coming down a steep road when it hit a barrier and fell into the 50-metre deep ravine," he added. Patcharapuwadol also said the driver was one of those killed in the accident in Muang district of Uttaradit province.
Reports said the 48-year-old driver, identified later as Udom Summart, was believed to have jumped from the bus before it plunged off the road into the 70-m deep ravine. More than 200 rescuers from different agencies worked throughout the day to extract the victims from the wreckage with the help of ropes. Later, they were taken to hospitals.
Several crash site photos, which were posted on social media, showed the bus roof was almost entirely sheared off. According to 2015 World Health Organisation report, Thailand has the world's second-most dangerous roads in terms of per capita deaths. The report estimates about 24,000 people die every year in road accidents in Thailand.