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A father's anguish: his daughter died because a bend was unsafe

Six Dead: Time for Action as Phuket Mourns Little Girl in Pink

Sunday, April 17, 2011

THE toll from the Big Buddha collision rose to six today with the death of another victim in a Phuket City hospital.

Warning: Distressing Photo Album Above

FIVE DEAD, 14 seriously injured was this afternoon's toll from a New Year calamity that brought Thais, tourists and Burmese together in mourning on the holiday island of Phuket.

Phuketwan photojournalist Sert Tongdee was quickly on the scene of the collision at 11.23am between a tourist truck filled with Aussies and a pick-up laden with Burmese.

The Burmese had been celebrating Songkran on Phuket's Big Buddha Hill. The Aussies were on their way up the hill.

The two vehicles crashed on a notorious bend at an elephant park, a bend where an Australian honeymooner lost his life in a single-vehicle crash last year.

The Australians on the vehicle going up the hill today were unhurt. After the crash, some of them tried to help the Burmese whose bodies were spread out across the Big Buddha hill road.

Phuketwan publishes Sert Tongdee's photographs, showing especially the anguish of a Burmese father mourning his young daughter in her best pink dress, in the hope that authorities will now do what they promised to do after last year's fatality - make this bend safe.

So often on Phuket, authorities promise action. Little is done.

In this case, after last year's fatality, a few signs were placed further up the hillside, warning drivers to slow down.

There was no change to the deadly bend itself, or to the distracting elephant camp, which is right on the corner. Now, a little girl and four others are dead.

The entire Phuket community - Thais, Burmese and tourists - is in mourning.

Perhaps now the Phuket authorities will do what they should have done 12 months ago: fix the problem properly.

Siam Safari, whose tourists were safe in the large vehicle proceeding up the hill, have issued the following comment in an email to Phuketwan:

On 17th of April, 2011 at about 11.30 am a traffic accident occurred when Siam Safari guests were on their way to Siam Safari Elephant Camp at Nakerd Mountain in Chalong, Phuket.

According to eye witnesses a pick up truck with more than 10 passengers had gotten out of control and was coming down the road uncontrollably. In a corner where the road is very steep the pick up truck crashed into the side of Siam Safari truck that was at the moment taking 15 guests up to the elephant camp. Siam Safari truck is registered for 18 passengers.

Three of Siam Safari guests, Australian nationals suffered minor cuts from broken glass that most likely came from the windshield of the pick up truck. The guests were taken to Phuket Bangkok Hospital to be checked.

We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the families involved in the accident.

Guests involved in the accident have given statements where they state that Siam Safari truck was driving up the hill slowly on the left side of the road when the pick up truck coming down the hill, clearly out of control, crashed into Siam Safari truck.

All Siam Safari guests are fully insured in case of such accidents and our insurance policies will cover all expenses.

Should you have any questions, or queries please do not hesitate to contact us.

Siam Safari Nature Tours Co., Ltd
Phuket Big Buddha Tragedy: Five Die in Crash With Tourist Bus
PHOTO ALBUM Five people are reported dead after a tour bus and a pickup laden with Burmese collide on a sharp bend on Phuket's Big Buddha hill. About 20 others are injured.
Phuket Big Buddha Tragedy: Five Die in Crash With Tourist Bus

Phuket Honeymoon Crash Victim Aims for Home
Latest Aimee Malonzo hopes to be on a flight home from Phuket to Australia later this week. Her family will be with her, on a flight that will also carry home her husband, crash victim Michael Malonzo.
Phuket Honeymoon Crash Victim Aims for Home

Phuket Death Crash Tour Driver May Face Charges
Latest The driver of a Phuket elephant trek tour jeep may face a manslaughter charge as police probe the cause of a crash that killed one Australian and injured eight on Big Buddha hill.
Phuket Death Crash Tour Driver May Face Charges

Phuket Tour Jeep Crash: One Dead, 10 Hurt
UPDATE One honeymooning Australian has been killed and eight tourists injured in a tour jeep crash in south Phuket. The jeep ran off the Big Buddha road, overturned, and hit an elephant.
Phuket Tour Jeep Crash: One Dead, 10 Hurt

Bus Safety Raised After Phuket Crash Kills Two
Latest The safety of local buses and tour vans that do not have seat belts is being questioned in the wake of a double fatality involving two Canadian visitors picked up from Phuket airport.
Bus Safety Raised After Phuket Crash Kills Two

Phuket Crash Survivor May Fly Home With Victims
Latest The elderly Canadian who survived a local bus crash in which two Canadians died early on New Year's Day may be flown home for an operation. He needs surgery to walk again.
Phuket Crash Survivor May Fly Home With Victims


Comments have been disabled for this article.


i find the photos unnecessary and in bad taste - your point could have been made without resorting to this exploitative slide-show of a dead father's grief!!

Posted by another steve on April 17, 2011 14:15


Graphic photos indeed. Heartfelt sympathies to the families of all the victims. There is blame attached in this instance - not just to Phuket authorities as you point out, but to the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, who ignore the continual sightings of overloaded pick-ups and other wanton traffic offences.
The photos make me cringe: the life of this little girl and four other people could have been saved if only a little common sense was applied by the powers that be on this island. Wishful thinking I know, but something must be done.

Posted by Pete on April 17, 2011 14:23


What a barefaced and disgusting attempt by phuketwan to grab attention by preying on a child's death and a father's anguish. You really know no bounds.

Posted by Roger Sun on April 17, 2011 15:17


Your photos are a total disgrace. Why do you feel the need to cash in on other peoples grief in this way. And also the comment that the poor girl was wearing her "best" pink dress. A little more tact and diplomacy would be fitting along with some compassion for these poor people. RIP.

Posted by sateeb on April 17, 2011 15:19


Why "A father's anguish: his daughter died because a bend was unsafe" when the truth is "his daughter died because of some poorly trained idiot driving like a lunatic"?

Posted by Harry Barracuda on April 17, 2011 15:54

Editor Comment:

We were at the bend last week, harry barracuda, looking at whether or not it was safe. It's not. We know the road well. The corner is a problem. You will have to explain your source of information.


It's gut-wrenching pictures that change the world.
Anyone remember the picture of the burnt, naked Vietnamese girl running away from her village that had just been napalmed?
That iconic picture brought home to the American people the horrors that were going on in Vietnam.

If it takes horrible pictures to nudge officialdom out of it's inertia, then, so be it.

Posted by Sir Burr on April 17, 2011 19:19


Welcome to Phuket, one of the most expensive if not the most expensive place in Thailand. Of course, in many cases, the infrastructure does not justify this high price, but hey... The sunsets are nice.

Terrible story and far too many deaths.

Posted by Anonymous on April 17, 2011 19:19


I do not yet think the cause of this tragic accident is known. Witnesses say they saw the laden pick-up coming down the hill out of control. Had there been a brake or mechanical failure perhaps? Until the investigation is complete, we cannot lay blame on the driver of the pick-up.

I have driven up this road many times, and I do not agree that this bend in the road is dangerous. The road is in reasonable condition and not excessibly steep, and there are no 'hairpin' bends.

What is lacking are escape lanes for vehicles to drive into if they are coming down the hill and the brakes of the vehicle fail.


Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 17, 2011 19:46

Editor Comment:

I have also driven the road many times - most recently last week, when we noted the dangers at the elephant camp. This particular corner is steep and dangerous, as the crashes last year and today prove beyond doubt. Part of the answer lies with a shuttle bus service to prevent overladen pick-ups attempting to come down hill. A widened road at the corner would serve the same purpose as an escape run-off.


What was a pickup truck doing carrying 10 people? This was a tragedy just waiting to happen. How is this poor Burmese man who probably earns a pittance supposed to go back to work tomorrow having just lost his little daughter? So sad.

Posted by Xircal on April 17, 2011 21:14

Editor Comment:

It wasn't carrying 10 people. It was carrying 20.


It will take time, but a goal should be set to create a law making it illegal for anyone to ride in the back of an open truck. It's been illegal in the US for decades due to safety issues. Safe vehicles should be provided to all indigent workers by the companies employing/exploiting them in my opinion.

Posted by Mike on April 17, 2011 21:40

Editor Comment:

Western values. Not much point in a country where the poor often have no choice. Phuket has no effective public transport.


The story now shown on the site has changed a hell of a lot from the first one, and thank god for that as the initial report was typical Thai reporting denegrating and Insinuating that it was all the Burmese fault. Now that it has been proven that any guilty party, be it either of the drivers, the municipality, the government, or even the elephant keepers that the editor believes are responsible, are all Thai, the story has changed dramatically to the true case which is the tragedy of people that have been killed.
Myanmar citizens (Burmese being one of many races that live there) are humans too, and having lived in the place I have a lot of respect for them and realize that they are not too blame for the many Phuket ills that local media such as this try to portray.
Please try to keep above the muck and don't become as xenophobic as a lot of society in Phuket and Thailand as a whole and treat everybody equally, regardless of race.

Posted by Jimmy on April 17, 2011 22:08

Editor Comment:

The original report said nothing of the kind. The story hasn't ''changed dramatically.'' We've updated it, death by sad death. You bring your own bias, Jimmy. Don't taint us with it.


I agree with Sir Burr. Print poster size pictures of the man and his dead daughter and stick them all over the governor's garden wall.

Posted by Mike Boyd on April 17, 2011 22:46

Editor Comment:

The case has very little to do with the Governor, Mike.


I am afraid you have me on this one after months of tete a tete the pictures you portray hit home. I do not know if agree with them but then again they are shocking enough to make people sit up and look and listen. There are many things I do not like about Phuketwan (its a free world) but this has me in both camps. Let me take this in and I need some time . This is and was an accident waiting to happen but the graphic photo's especially of the father with the daughter in his arms, whether Burmese Thai or Falang we are all flesh and blood and this hits home if your pictures can prevent something like this happening again bravo somehow i think not. Shocked saddened the trivial nonsense about journalism & content goes right out the window. A picture tells a thousand words. RIP victims of Big Bhudda Phuket Songkran (no avatar needed)

Posted by Neill Campbell on April 18, 2011 00:29


Very, very sad. My condolences to all the families. I would feel some sort of reassurance, if I thought this would trigger the authorities into action. However, from past experience, I do not believe anything will be done. How long before a large truck with 50+ Burmese workers overturns on these roads? Maybe Thailand also needs to introduce some sort of annual vehicle check, such as the MOT in the UK.

Posted by Phuket Kop on April 18, 2011 00:31


Ed: Well, who is the top man in charge of Phuket if not the governor?

Also, maybe you could find out why the Big Buddha was built on national forestry land?

Someone is making a lot of money out of what - as my Thai friends tell me - is an illegal construction.

Posted by Mike Boyd on April 18, 2011 02:04

Editor Comment:

Your Thai friends are misinformed. The Big Buddha was granted a construction exemption, and it's perfectly legal. All donations go to construction and the foundation says all money is accounted for.
It's odd that people who would never consider accusing a Catholic cathedral project of ''making money'' or blame the Governor of New York for a fatal bus crash become so loose with accusations and the laying of blame in Thailand. The Governor is certainly the island's leading figurehead, but it's unfair - and far too simple - to always demand results from one man when so many local authorities oversee various aspects of Phuket.


Taking photos and posting ONE for visual effect to highlight this tragedy is one thing (look at the famous photo of the naked Vietnamese girl running away from Napalm for example) but posting a dozen or more is over the top. What came out from the photo-montage in my view was not the grief, but how the cameraman must have been around continually firing off photos right in the face of tragedy. Posting just the one photo of the distraught father and daughter would have adequately made the point.

Posted by Mr Man on April 18, 2011 06:48

Editor Comment:

The naked napalm victim was also recorded - and frequently shown - on film. Your argument for one still photo per tragedy would take readers back to the 19th century, Mr Man. We'd prefer to give readers an honest and thorough coverage. Readers are free to choose. Those undeterred by the ''Distressing Photos'' warning have a right to reality.


"The Governor is certainly the island's leading figurehead, but it's unfair - and far too simple - to always demand results from one man when so many local authorities oversee various aspects of Phuket."

Translation: The buck doesn't stop here, or anywhere else for that matter.

Posted by dan on April 18, 2011 07:52

Editor Comment:

Translation: Western culture is complex but Phuket is simple. The governor is always responsible. Blame him. That way, expats find criticism easy. There's no need to know more.


The government will not be motivated for suffering Burmese. Never mind that they built the Big Buddha. Will Siam Safari help pay for a proper funeral for the girl?

Posted by VFaye on April 18, 2011 13:04


Even though I do think that the pictures are distasteful and unnecessary to show so many of the father in anguish, it does hit home. Yesterday I heard many remarks on the accident, but the conversation always ended when mentioned that the victims were Burmese. As if that does not count. As if they are not people. And as if they do not feel or hurt or grieve. No tourists were hurt, is the remark. Does it matter whether it is tourists or immigrant workers? I feel for the survivors and family members of the deceased.
But still... were so many pictures needed?

Posted by Tinkerbell on April 18, 2011 13:20

Editor Comment:

Yes. The media these days gives what it has. Readers today make the decision about how much or how little they wish to know. What's truly shocking is, as you say, the lack of caring once it's realised that ''only Burmese'' were involved.


I would like to know why Vfaye thinks that Siam Safari should pay for the little girls funeral, did you even read the text? If you take a look at the pictures it seems to me that Siam Safari's truck is driving where it should be, if the truck coming from the hill would have been driving slow enough this wouldn't have happened. But as they say, the vehicle was not under control, so why should Siam Safari pay for it?

Posted by sweetchili on April 18, 2011 14:38


Ed. - thanks for the info. I will ask my friend (who is related to the person whose job is to monitor the forestry land in the southern provinces) again about this subject. I was originally told that when her relative queried the building on forestry land he was told to "go away and don't ask again".

Regarding the governor, I wasn't blaming him for inaction to date, but thought placing pictures near his residence would bring it to his and the public's attention, in the hope that something may be done about the road quickly otherwise this story will, like the passengers in the pick-up, just die and nothing will be done.

Posted by Mike Boyd on April 18, 2011 18:21


These pictures though graphic bring home the effects of a overloaded vehicle combined with poor road design and a badly trained driver in a poorly maintained vehicle. This poor wee darling has paid the ultimate price for these factors that so easily could have been prevented. I'm sure the Government won't like to see these images of a dead baby girl being shown around the world at one of their premier new tourist spots, hopefully this will make them fix the problem on this stretch of road and enforce the laws regarding overloaded and badly maintained vehicles before anyone else becomes a victim as this wee darling surely was .These pictures of this dead child in her wee pink dress may shock your readers and this government into action as a million words alone could never do.My deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims.

Posted by Scunner on April 18, 2011 19:27


Is Phuketwan a member of any professional organisation? I think the NUMBER of photographs are unethical. One photo would have been enough. Maybe two. But you chose to post eleven. The NPPA code of ethics says you should strive to be unobtrusive and humble. I'd hardly say you were unobtrusive. Other organisations say there should be 'harm limitation' to show 'compassion, taste, decency and acceptability. Do you think your photographer showed any of the above? Do you subscribe to an ethical professional body? Who?

Posted by mr man on April 21, 2011 13:01

Editor Comment:

You appear to be talking about the National Press Photographers Association, an American organisation. I don't intend to attempt to explain to you what makes good photography, or good ethics. But you will find that, sadly, many of the world's most awarded news photographs of the past and the present include images of the dead and the dying. The photographer was deeply moved by what he saw, and what he photographed. Others are only moved by their own reaction. You ignored our (ethical) warning in large type at the top of the article that the photographs in the album were likely to be distressing. Fortunately, decisions at Phuketwan about compassion, taste, decency and acceptability continue to rest in the hands of professionals.


Seriously, ease up on PhuketWan, guys. In the world of Phuket ethics, they are one of the good ones. There are bigger fish to fry.

Posted by Philip on April 21, 2011 13:55


So are you a member of any professional journalism body or not?
You don't need to 'attempt to explain what makes good photography or ethics' because the ombudsmen of proper professional journalism bodies have already done so.
Which professional union are you a member of?

Posted by Mr Man on April 21, 2011 14:38

Editor Comment:

We take the Groucho Marx view on clubs, Mr Man. If you do a search of Phuketwan for ''code of ethics'' you will see we have declared our values. Ethics are a daily concern for us. And why would we waste Phuketwan's time joining a ''professional union'' when we have so many instant experts on journalism among our readers?


Whoa people..there is an often observed term used on forums.."don't feed the troll!!"
In this case the troll is the editor, sadly, because he wont desist in making obnoxious and smart assed comments to his readers! The very people who can make or break him.
PS as for the pics, and his comments...a true indication of this guy's morals...zilch!!

Posted by davidj on April 21, 2011 15:12

Editor Comment:

It's certainly safe to say that you and I have little in common, davidj. Readers can be grateful for that. I certainly am.


Phuketwan adopts Australian code of ethics

Code number 11 is 'Respect private grief and personal privacy. Journalists have the right to resist compulsion to intrude.'

Do you agree that the eleven photos you posted, clearly taken in quick succession, disrespect the private grief of the father of the dead young girl?

Does the fact that you have 'chosen' to adopt an ethics code, instead of subscribing to an umbrella organisation that makes sure you are working ethically, mean you're an amateur hack doing what YOU see as ethical?

Posted by Mr Man on April 21, 2011 15:42

Editor Comment:



Just so i'm clear. You've plagiarised the ethics rules of the AJA (Australian Journalists Association) but you're not a member, and you apply their rules as you see fit, with no course of recourse for the aggrieved. (Unlike a proper Australian journalist who runs the risk of having to appear in front of a panel of his peers)

Posted by Mr man on April 21, 2011 16:04

Editor Comment:

You don't understand the difference between open and closed questions, Mr Man. This means your knowledge of everything connected with journalism is flawed. And you've now gone from being mr man to Mr Man to Mr man. As Groucho might say, it's clear you don't understand capitalism, let alone ethics. Imposing your peculiar standards, incidentally, would rule out virtually all internet journalism, as well as some great, great work done across past centuries. What disturbs me most, though, is your pursuit of your own skewed values in the context of this tragic incident. I suggest you take it up with Thai Visa or whichever ethically-aware organisation you think will continue to listen. I won't.


shakes head sadly at this whole mess. Mr. ed. sir in the midst of the storm sometimes the biggest example of what you claim to be is to simply raise both hands and admit, "You got me, I'll do better next time." That is a bigger example than arguing and denying.

Posted by nito on April 21, 2011 17:32

Editor Comment:

I understanding what you are suggesting, nito, but only someone without courage or conviction would accept lies when they know the truth. It isn't going to happen here in a hurry.


Editor Comment:

ED said 'It's certainly safe to say that you and I have little in common, davidj. Readers can be grateful for that. I certainly am."

Good point, but to be precise, i would say that 99.9% of readers actualy have little in common with you.Your attitude is extremely embarressing to the rest of us Australians.
I could understand if your obnoxiousness was limited to a few pot stirring readers, but you attack all and everyone who dares to point out your very obvious flaws.Go take a holiday,all the signs point to the fact that you are well overdue for a beak!

Posted by davidj on April 21, 2011 17:42

Editor Comment:

If not accepting lies, misinformation, malicious rumor, gossip, bigotry and racism constitutes a ''very obvious flaw,'' I'm pleased to be very, very flawed. You have a limited idea of what being an Australian is all about. When it comes to basic principles of truth and justice, nationality is not really important. That said, only an Aussie would suggest a holiday is the answer. You have a good one, mate.


Most victims sit at the back of a pickuptruck I understand and that is not
a place for people to be. Maybe its wiser to change the law about that!

Posted by Walter on April 23, 2011 15:44


Perhaps the best fix would be a physical divider between the oncoming lanes at that bend? In that way, it'd be physically impossible for vehicles to "cut corners" (stray into the other lane) while coming around that bend.

Posted by Tired of The Act on April 24, 2011 19:35


Editor, I do not agree that asking for a law preventing riders in the back of a truck is "western values" and an unworkable idea in Thailand. 20 people in the back of a pickup truck is obviously a huge safety hazard. When those people are Burmese workers, it'd be so easy to require that the employers provide safe (bus with seatbelts? Schoolbus? Van?) transportation to and from the worksite. Pickup = disaster.

Posted by Tired of The Act on April 24, 2011 19:46


Hello! Very good job (this site)! Thank you man.

Posted by JohnBush on May 24, 2011 12:01



Posted by Adam on February 21, 2012 11:51

Editor Comment:

PHUKETWAN hereby alters its policy on the posting of Comments and bans whingers, whiners, do-nothings, dingbats, doomsayers, carpers, harpers and kooks. This list may grow with time. Constructive ideas and new pieces of information remain welcome.

Wednesday August 17, 2022
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