Fiery van crash kills four Japanese tourists and Thai guide near Ayutthaya

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Four Japanese tourists and their Thai guide were killed on Wednesday when their van collided with a truck in the Thailand’s Ayutthaya province, police said.

All five van passengers died at the scene after flames engulfed their van following the crash, said provincial chief of tourist police Sarut Rayanon. The accident took place Wednesday afternoon on a road in Bang Pa-in district, which borders the ancient temple city of Ayutthaya popular with tourists.

The four were identified as Katsuhiko Narimoto, 65, Haruka Narimoto, 30, Kumiko Komeima, 59, and Yoshio Komeima, 68. They were on a sightseeing tour organized by Tokyo-based Nippon Travel Agency Co.

The four left Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture on Tuesday and were due to return to Japan on Friday after touring Bangkok and Ayutthaya. They were making a one-day trip to the popular tourist spot when the accident occurred, according to the travel agency.

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased,” agency President Akihiro Horisaka said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Despite its wealth relative to neighboring Southeast Asian countries and good infrastructure, Thailand has some of the most lethal roads in the world.

Around 24,000 people die each year in traffic accidents in the kingdom, according to data collected by the World Health Organization in a 2015 report.

Yet the frequent accidents have done little to dull Thailand’s powerhouse tourism industry, a key driver of its otherwise flagging economy.

The kingdom is expecting more than 30 million visitors in 2017.

The worst road accident involving foreign tourists in recent years left 12 Malaysians dead when their bus crashed in northern Chiang Mai province in 2015.