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Liberty Jefferson's shattered ankle, result of a Phuket hit-run

Expat Teacher's Hit-Run Motorcycle Nightmare

Saturday, September 22, 2012
PHUKET: A speeding pickup that ran a red light on Phuket has dramatically altered the life of young American Liberty Jefferson.

She's the latest in a long line of mostly young victims of the motorcycle on Phuket, a place with no safe public transport alternatives for many.

Friends and family in the US are reported to be coming to the aid of Liberty, whose right leg is still shattered six months after the crash.

She told KVAL News in Oregon that she was teaching English to third graders on Phuket in March when her life was ''turned upside-down'' by a crash.

''I turned and just bash - that was it. I woke up in the ambulance.'' Jefferson said.

The news report adds that Jefferson says she sat in a hospital room 13 hours before she received any help. In all she spent nine days in the government hospital.

''It seems so surreal that it even happened, you know. It was so traumatic,'' Liberty said.

''My ankle was shattered so bad they had to put this external fixator in to keep the bones stable.''

Now KVAL News reports that the doctors in Thailand ''botched the two operations''.

She has been told she needs more surgery. Friends and family are trying to raise the money.

''It's tough but I do have support here. I'm surviving but the medical bills are just expensive - unbelievable, you know,'' said Jefferson.

Phuket's Public Health Department aims to cut the road death toll on Phuket from 116 last year to 50 before 2015.

Most of the deaths come on motorcycles, with two Frenchmen among the latest victims.

The toll has been cut considerably over the past few years, down from more than 200 a year, by obliterating blackspots and attempting to persuade riders to wear safety helmets.

However, the prevalence of motorcycles as the only convenient transport for many leaves thousands injured, maimed and mutilated each month.

Motorcycle crashes are the prime cause of Phuket's public hospitals being overstretched and unable to service all of Phuket's health needs.

Most people on Phuket are forced to use motorcycles because Phuket's administrators have never been able to implement a low cost, safe alternative.

Phuket's taxi and tuk-tuk monopoly fixes fares at too high a rate for locals and most tourists, yet objects to an alternative that would reduced the risk to everyone, including their own relatives and friends.

Phuketwan's regular monthly updates on the improving statistics for the road toll dead and injured on Phuket ended abruptly in April when Phuket Public Health stopped supplying the figures.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


some bus services like in bangkok would be nicer for everyone here

Posted by ryan on September 22, 2012 11:11


Simple fact is motorbikes are convenient, cheap and can be a lot of fun. If everyone had a car then the entire island would be gridlocked. A bigger issue are the people that drive vehicles with no disregard for anyone's safety including their own. I see people run red lights at high speed every single day. I've learned to look both ways at green lights and drive defensively over the years but calling this an 'accident' is off base. Fleeing the scene when this young girl is lying on the road. Cowardly and deplorable. Hold these people accountable for their actions, take their driving 'privilege' away. Speedy recovery for someone that was trying to do some good in Thailand.

Posted by Jon on September 22, 2012 11:12

Editor Comment:

The even bigger issue is the lack of safe public transport, Jon. Nobody is suggesting that people with motorcycles all suddenly buy cars.


Mr. Editor...Seems Phuket has the problems. Drunks and moto bikes are the least of them. Ill equiped hospitals and clinics, untrained staff, botched operations, drug dealers, deaths, officials that have no business being in office, this includes the Prime Minister on down. I do not have any problems with anything, including Phuket. I live in an erea of the country where MOST of the above mentioned never happens. I along with many others consider ourselves (Thais and my wife)very fortunate. No...I do not have THE or ANY problems.

Posted by Ted Davis on September 22, 2012 11:45

Editor Comment:

Total propaganda, Ted. You may live in an area where none of the problems are reported, and where your sources of information are limited. Your self-righteousness is not impressive, just the sign of someone with a blinkered sense of perspective. As usual, nothing you say here adds value.


The lack of law and order and the respect for the law particularily in Phuket is quite profound. Over the years that I have spent in Thailand, I have certainly noticed the complete lack of road sense for the majority of road-users is plain to see. Until standards rise, and the police enforce the laws of the land, then I can only see a repetition of these terrible events happening. The problem with road safety in Phuket and in Thailand in general is reported on most Embassy websites, where they state that the driving standards are not as high as other countries and those using the highways (in particular foreigners) should take extreme care. Driving standards in Thailand is widely acknowledged by most as relatively poor.

Posted by reader on September 22, 2012 12:21


Yes editor, safe public transport is a rallying cry worth pursuing but I think Jon's point remains valid. Laws not being enforced, there being no consequence when you have an accident and run away, etc. play a major role in increasing the danger. Also the government allowing the taxi banditry borders on criminal negligence since, as you have pointed out repeatedly it nearly forces people who would not ordinarily travel by motorbike to do so. I don't know what it will take to foment change but the concept of taking away someone's driving privileges for just one shattered leg seems unlikely since the girl who killed 9 in Bangkok only lost her license until age 25 despite not being a legal driver at the time of the accident. I guess what I am trying to say is it is difficult to rank which issue is bigger or smaller. Reasonable public transport will solve some issues but with no enforcement of traffic laws (evidence being the number of bus related accidents, even some with drivers who just run away and leave their bus filled with people) how much safer will that be?

A little off point but I would caution people from assuming only locals do this. I have witnessed two accidents where an expat or tourist driving a car hit someone and ran or tried to. In one case they had jumped the light and I assume that this is a case of assimilation of local practices. Again I have to say people unfortunately do not do what is expected but what is inspected.

Posted by Martin on September 22, 2012 12:34

Editor Comment:

Catching the perpetrator would not have reversed the time machine to prevent this crash. A well-run bus service might have. There is no indication in the original article as to whether police pursued the hit-run driver or not. Rightly, the prime concern was the well-being of Liberty.


The suggestion of bus services would create such a storm by the taxi and tuk tuk drivers, a scenario of beatings and bashing will be prevalent,with the hit a run driver once caught he should be charged and whatever the costs involved in this young ladies recovery should come from him.

Posted by Alex on September 22, 2012 15:18

Editor Comment:

It pays to take out travel insurance.


If she have a workpermit she also have health-insurence, if she dont have that why not just get a insurence from back home, to go anywere in the world without any kind of big or small insurance dosent make sense..

Posted by Roland on September 22, 2012 16:18


I agree with Roland.
This young lady probably didn't have any kind of insurance. Otherwise she wouldn't have been transferred to a government hospital.
Also complaining in each article about the lack of public transport is useless and sterile. We might not see this changing in our lifetime.
There's the need for a big external shock to evolve...

Posted by william on September 22, 2012 18:57

Editor Comment:

If we were to stop complaining, william, you would go forever on wondering what you were going to say in your first Phuketwan comment. Now that you've decided there is no point in complaining, what will you do? Wait for the big external shock? How bold of you.


A lot of things happen on Phuket the average person from the developed world would never expect. A hit and run would have resulted in a major manhunt by the police in the US and the insurance of the driver would have to shoulder the cost.

The lack of law enforcement and lackadaisical attitude of local police towards foreign victims of crime comes as a real shock to many who are at the short end of the stick.

On the surface Phuket may seem reasonably civil and modern but in reality it's anything but. A far cry from the standards people rightfully assimilate with an International Holiday destination.

Posted by Andrew on September 22, 2012 19:52

Editor Comment:

Sorry, I have no idea what you mean in saying ''A far cry from the standards people rightfully assimilate with an International Holiday destination.''


@ Ed

I mean the constant pounding of the chest of local authorities how Phuket is an International Holiday destination of fame and fortune but does not apply nor adhere to international standards.

In this case relevant would be lack of public transport, enforcement of traffic laws and will to investigate crimes such as those depicted here.

CCTV Cameras abound, surely some footage could be found if there was a genuine will to do so.

In short, the lawlessness of Phuket comes as a shock to many.

Posted by Andrew on September 22, 2012 20:22


I do fully agree with you!

Posted by Mr. K on September 22, 2012 21:04


"A hit and run would have resulted in a major manhunt by the police in the US"

Do you have any idea how many hit and runs in the US go unsolved? I don't, but judging from a recent report I saw about the same in a western European country, saying that the vast majority of the hit and runs go unsolved, I would not expect it to be much different in the US.

Posted by stevenl on September 23, 2012 10:22


@ stevenl

There's a huge difference between lack of ability to solve a hit-and-run and lack of WILL to do so.

That was the essential point which you quite obviously missed.

Posted by Andrew on September 23, 2012 13:17


Why do people consistently expect the same terms, conditions, non-corrupt politics, roadsafety, "welfare nursing" etc. etc - like they had in their homelands? If you all so desperately crave the "safety" like you had back in the Nursing Home, well... then go back now, please, and let the rest of us enjoy the Land of the Free aka Thailand. Yes, it's dangerous, and life is cheap, and the traffic is horrible, but still this is what most of us like: The freedom to do what we want, directed by our own grown up sense of responsibility. If you don't have this quality, then you are in trouble in LOS.

Posted by Lex on October 4, 2012 02:13


Please, everyone who claims that public transport is 'the answer' to all of these traffic woes, ask yourself and honestly answer the question: 'When and if public transport is instigated in Phuket would you and your family regularly use it?'


Posted by Sam W on October 4, 2012 08:38

Editor Comment:

If it was Singapore, Sam, and lives would be saved and needless injuries prevented, the motorcycle would be made less desirable as an alternative. And that may become necessary.

Friday October 19, 2018
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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