“There are now 13 dead, eight females, five males,” an officer at Doi Saket police station told AFP, asking not to be named. He added that the victims were both “Chinese Malaysian and Thai” but could not give a breakdown as investigations were continuing.
In Malaysia, tour operator Chiu Travel said it had been informed by Thai authorities that 12 Malaysians and a Thai tour guide were killed. “This is a real shock. We are all very sad,” manager Terence Yung told AFP by phone from the company’s office in the southern state of Johor.
“We have also lost our tour leader. Some of the relatives are here. They are calm and sad. Some are crying. We are doing everything to help them.” Malaysia’s foreign ministry put the number of Malaysian dead at 13. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
The ministry in a statement expressed “deepest condolences” to the family and friends of those killed. Multiple images posted online by local news outlets showed a horrific scene as rescuers battled to reach those trapped inside the smashed bus, which had come to rest in thick foliage with its roof caved in.
Some of those still inside had suffered horrific injuries. In one picture seven pieces of white sheeting had been draped to cover either bodies or body parts. Deadly road accidents are common in Thailand. In a 2015 study on global road safety the World Health Organization found Thailand had the world’s second most dangerous roads with 36.2 fatalities per 100,000 people.
The WHO said the number of official reported road deaths a year in Thailand for 2012, the latest year figures are available for, was 14,059. But they added that their modelling suggested the true figure is actually closer to 24,000 dead a year. Tourism is a mainstay of Thailand’s otherwise fragile economy, accounting for around 10 percent of GDP, and the December to February period is peak season.