At Least 15 Dead in Bangkok River Boat Accident
On Sunday, a boat accident on the busy Chao Phraya river in Bangkok killed at least 15-20 people, Thai media reports. The number of casualties has steadily risen through the day and as many as a dozen are still missing, including a number of children. 45 more are injured.
Bystanders captured the sinking on video; the footage shows the vessel traveling quickly downstream, then cuts to a view of the damaged vessel alongside a bank and going down rapidly. The first deck is submerged in seconds; images after the accident show what appears to be just the top of a submerged single-deck vessel.
City official Udomsak Khaonoona said that it appears the accident occurred when the boat attempted to avoid a collision with another vessel and hit a concrete piling instead. Other media reports indicate that the boat was attempting to overtake a sand barge at the time of the incident, and that currents in the area where the allision occurred are unusually strong.
Authorities believe that about 150 people were on board at the time of the incident, three times the boat's rated capacity. The majoritiy of the passengers were reportedly returning from a visit to a local mosque.
Virat Chaisirikul, 67, was allegedly operating the vessel on a suspended license. The Bangkok Post reports that he told authorities that prior to the accident, he had been unable to stop additional passengers from boarding his crowded vessel. Chaisirikul has been detained and charged but has denied any wrongdoing. The vessel's owner may also face questioning.