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The drunk's pickup finds peace at last in a Phuket City mangrove swamp

Phuket Drunk Hits Car, Seven Motorcycles: Photos

Friday, May 21, 2010
Crash Photo Album Above

ROAD RAGE? Life became a blurry nightmare as Wiroj Songpan sought to find his way home after a drunken binge in Phuket City. It may have been 7.20am on a weekday morning, but the 30-year-old had had a skinful.

From the public park at Saphan Hin in Phuket City, he pointed his bloated belly and his pickup towards home in Koh Siree, on the east coast. Given the alcohol swirling through his system, it was never going to be easy.

He made it to the bridge across to the smaller island . . . and then over the bridge. That was as much as his befuddled brain could manage.

The usual early morning buzz of traffic - kids on the way to school, mothers shopping for fresh breakfast, workers mounting motorcycles - proved too much.

Khun Wiroj collected a saloon car. He kept going. Khun Wiroj collected a motorcycle. He kept going.

After the toll reached one car and seven motorcycles, something inside Khun Wiroj's brain finally urged him to stop the pickup.

Or it may have had something to do with the pickup running off the road, into a mangrove swamp, and being able to go no further.

The toll: one car crunched, seven motorcycles downed, 11 people injured, requiring hospital treatment, with two needing intensive care. Nikom Chanachon, 36, and Somchai Jaratsri, 37, were suffering from serious internal injuries.

Relating the tragedy of Khun Wiroj's night on the booze and skittling route home, Phuket police chief Major General Pekad Tantipong said yesterday that the toll could have been far worse if all the people on the motorcycles, including two four-year-olds, one of whom was tossed into the mangroves, had not been wearing helmets.

Khun Wiroj faces a shocking hangover, as well as charges of drink-driving and dangerous driving. Major General Pekad said that Khun Wiroj had committed a similar crime two years ago.

A police video of the aftermath was screened to a sober Khun Wiroj yesterday. ''Saying you are sorry now is not good enough,'' the major general told him. ''There could have been many deaths. You will pay for your actions.''

Police say that free helmets will be handed out from June 15, with a crackdown on laws regarding helmets to begin in Phuket City from July 1.

One thousand motorcycles, with riders wearing helmets, are to parade through Phuket City on that day.

From then, riders will be fined 1000 baht if a pillion passenger fails to wear a helmet, and 500 baht if they fail to wear one themselves. The campaign is to spread to other parts of the island from Phuket City.

Motorcycle riders in Phuket City are being given free helmets in readiness for the start of the campaign.

Phuketwan supports the Mothers or Motorcycles (MoM) action group, which aims for 100 percent helmets on all riders and passengers, and better education about road rules.

Ten people died on Phuket's roads in April, with hundreds more suffering injuries. Tourists are often among the victims.

Better understanding of road safety is expected to reduce the pain and suffering of individuals and their families, and the social cost and consequences to the whole Phuket community.
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