Ill-fated bus was overloaded and illegally used: Land Transport Department

The Land Transport Department has lodged a complaint with the police to take legal action against the owner of the tour bus which caught fire, killing 20 Myanmar migrant workers and injuring two others, as it was heading for an industrial estate in Pathum Thani from Tak province early Friday morning (March 30).

The department director-general Mr Sanit Promwong said Friday that the department had also revoked the driving license of the bus driver after officials had found out that the bus operated illegally because it was allowed to operate only in Nakhon Sawan province.

He added that the bus, owned by Nakhon Sawan-based Lat Yao Service Co, was overloaded as it was licensed to carry only 40 passengers, but it actually carried about 50 Myanmar migrant workers.

The dead victims include 18 women and two men.

The 48-year-old bus driver, Mr Banthoon Vithoon, told the police that he smelled smoke coming from the back of the bus and put the bus to a stop while his wife who was seated next to him loudly asked the workers whether any of them smoked, but they didn't understand each other.

I am very saddened by the tragedy because so many people got killed, said Mr Banthoon, adding that the fire spread out so quickly although he managed to open the front door and the emergency door, but most of the passengers failed to get out, probably, because they had fainted.

The driver claimed that he went back to the bus and managed to pull one worker to safety.

Tak police commander, Pol Maj-Gen Prinya Visitthakul, who inspected the burned bus this morning said that police could not determine the cause of the fire yet and had to wait for report from forensic police.

The bus has three exit doors � two on the left side of the bus and an emergency exit on the back. Officials assumed that the fire came from the mid-section luggage bay under the passenger seats. Most of the dead victims were found near the exit doors.

Mae Thor district police superintendent, Pol Col Kritchanok Dan-udom, said the driver tried to open the emergency exit door from the outside. He noted that the door should have been opened from the inside by the passengers, but many of them might have blacked out due to smoke inhalation and could not open the door.

Meanwhile, the governor of Myawaddy province from Myanmar went to Mae Thor police in Muang district to hold discussion with Tak governor Charoenrith Sa-nguansat and officials concerned to follow up the tragic incident.

Tak governor said arrangements were being made with insurance company to provide help to families of the dead victims and the injured. As for the surviving workers, he said they would be sent to Pathum Thani to work if they so wish, or if they want to return to Myanmar, arrangement will be made to send them home.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)