PHUKET: There will be no immediate changes in safety regulations following a British woman’s fall to her death from the back of a tuk-tuk on December 20.
“There will be no changes to our rules,” said Jaturong Kaewkasi, the chief policy adviser for the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO). “Tuk-tuks in Phuket are regulated by the Department of Land Transport. We are not ignoring safety measures in the public transportation sector; we just can’t have a knee-jerk reaction and start changing regulations every time there is an accident.”
The sole witness to the incident, Paul Henry Fortuna, 30, told police in his statement that 29-year-old Elizabeth Corrigan was feeling sick from drinking and attempting to cross from her side of the tuk-tuk to his when she tumbled out of the back of the vehicle, explained Kamala Police Superintendent ML Pattanachak Jakkapan.
“We have found CCTV footage of the tuk-tuk after it had picked the pair up from Soi Bangla and started its journey to their hotel near Surin Beach,” said Col Pattanachak. “The video does not show the driver speeding or being reckless.”
Yongyuth Damkong, 44, told police that he was only going about 40km/hr as he ascended a hill between Patong and Kamala when Ms Corrigan fell out.
“Mr Fortuna said that it occurred at a bend in the road and she just lost her balance and fell out. He tried to grab her, but missed,” Col Pattanachak said. “He shouted to the driver, who then stopped and phoned rescue workers.”
Ms Corrigan was rushed to Patong Hospital and later transferred to the better-equipped Vachira Phuket Hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Though tuk-tuks line the streets on either side of Phuket’s infamous party area, Soi Bangla, Mr Jaturong pointed out that catching a ride in the vehicles in an inebriated state could clearly be dangerous.
“Though there are not many cases of people falling out of tuk-tuks; people need to be careful after they have been drinking,” said Mr Jaturong. “Of course, I am not placing blame on anyone for what happened. If the police find that the condition of the tuk-tuk is what caused the woman’s death, we will look into what can be done to increase safety measures.”
Ms Corrigan’s father, who went to the Kamala Police Station, voiced his concerns about the design of the tuk-tuks on Phuket, Col Pattanachak said.
“He asked why they didn’t have doors to prevent such a tragic accident. We listened to his concerns and will be passing his suggestions on to the governor, as well as the Phuket Land Transportation Office,” Col Pattanachak said.
Supap Pramkaew, head of the Karon tuk-tuk consortium, was against any modifications to the current design of tuk-tuks.
“Having the entrance free of a barrier, like we have now, is best. If customers sit appropriately in the vehicles, there is nothing to be worried about,” Mr Supap said. “Having a gate across the entrance would not look nice. I think the customer would feel like he or she is in a pig cage. Additionally, it would not be convenient for a customer to get in or out of the vehicle.”
Mr Supap explained that tuk-tuk drivers are often caught between a rock and a hard spot, when it comes to dealing with drunk clientele.
“If at all possible, we avoid taking drunk people, as they are often either unable to communicate clearly or they get into fights with our drivers,” said Mr Supap. “However, if we refuse to pick them up, we’re called bad guys, which just isn’t fair.”
— Chutharat Plerin