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CHON BURI: The Transport Ministry plans to strictly control passenger vans and replace them with buses after the fiery accident in Chon Buri on Monday caused 25 fatalities.

The Bangkok-bound minivan from Chanthaburi ran into a pickup truck loaded with passengers and both vehicles burst into flames, killing 14 people in the van and 11 in the pickup.

Two passengers survived the crash.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said yesterday that exhaustion might have been a major factor in the accident, as it was reported that the 64-year-old van driver had had only one hour of rest after returning from a trip to Bangkok.

“From the preliminary examination of the case, we found that the van had just passed inspection last September and there was no problem with the engine or gas tanks,” Mr Arkhom said.

“So the accident might have been caused by the driver’s fatigue or speeding, but this has to be confirmed by investigators.”

Mr Arkhom added that tighter regulations will be issued.

“The number of passenger vans crossing provincial borders will be reduced by 2019 and replaced with buses,” he said. “Drivers will have to comply with a rule to rest one hour after every four hours on the road and attend a traffic course every six months to ensure that they remember traffic rules and exercise good driving etiquette.”

“In other countries, vans are used to carry items, not people, so if our country uses vans to transport passengers, we must ensure that it is safe to do so,” Mr Arkhom said. “The Transport Ministry is now campaigning to get van operators to install GPS units in their vehicles, so we can track and regulate the drivers.”

The van had been equipped with three NGV tanks, which exploded after the collision.

“To prevent such a tragic accident, we must ensure that the transport vehicle driver has a proper rest before driving, the vans must be installed with safety equipment and the vans should not run on NGV [natural gas for vehicles],” said Siwakorn Buapong, chief of the Chon Buri office of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation departnent.

Eight of the victims were identified as men, 13 as women, one as a boy and one as a girl. The gender of the remaining two corpses is still unknown. Most of the bodies were covered with serious burns, so relatives were urged to provide details about their family members and DNA samples.

The Justice Ministry said they would provide legal assistance to relatives to get compensation from insurance companies as well as financial support in case relatives incur legal expenses in court, and to cover the charges for identification tests.

Police have not filed charges in connection with the accident, saying that more evidence is needed.

— The Nation