The search for survivors and bodies resumed at first light today (Sept 19).
Ayutthaya Governor Prayoon Rattanasenee said that as of early today, the official death toll was 15. Another 46 people were injured, of whom 10 were in critical condition.
The search for 10 people still missing from the crash was under way.
The known victims included six women, six men, and a boy, he said. Details of the other two victims were not known.
Late yesterday evening, waiting family members of the boat passengers said many of those aboard had not been accounted for.
Rescue workers struggled to get the passengers, all of whom are Thai Muslims, to safety.
Vice Ayutthaya Governor Rewat Prasong, said it was believed more than 150 passengers were on board when the collision occurred at 3:15pm.
After more than 12 hours of search operations, 15 people were confirmed drowned after the boat loaded with Muslim tourists sank in the Chao Phraya River.
The wooden boat hit a concrete pillar at the river embankment at Wat Sanam Chai in Ayutthaya’s Muang district Sunday afternoon.
Sombat Mongkolchai Tabtim, the two-level tourist boat, was 27 metres long and, according to Marine Department authorities, was registered in 1967 to carry a maximum passenger load of 50.
A group of Thai Muslims from Talat Kwan community in Nonthaburi was on board the boat on the Chao Phraya River to attend an annual religious ceremony at a local mosque in Ayutthaya before the ferry hit the barrier during their journey back.
At 4:10pm, Kris Thianmitraphap, secretary to the Ayutthaya mayor, ordered rescue boats and fire boats to rescue passengers who were on board the stricken boat.
The Marine Department brought a large ship to bring the sunken tourist boat back to the surface. The lower level of the boat was about two metres below the river surface; the upper level was partially protruding, Mr Rewat said.
Mr Rewat said river currents in front of Wat Sanam Chai are usually strong. The tourist boat tried to avoid another boat on the river, causing it to veer away and hit an embankment at the temple.
Alarmed, more than 100 passengers suddenly stood up, causing the boat to list, take on water and sink, Mr Rewat said.
Marine Department director-general Sorasak Saensombat also said the strong river currents were partially to blame for the incident. The boat’s captain was unable to control the boat, causing it to hit the embankment. Authorities believed some passengers were trapped in the lower level of the boat, he said.
Mr Sorasak also said safety equipment on the boat may not have been sufficient for the passengers.
The boat’s captain, identified as Wirat Chaisirikul, 68, is still missing, he added.
Annop Kudiphan, 50, who was among the passengers on board, said the ferry was carrying members of an annual religious ceremony to pay homage to Muslim religious teachers.
Passengers were on their way to attend the religious event at Takia Yokin mosque in tambon Khlong Takhian in Ayutthya’s Muang district.
On the journey back to Nonthaburi, Mr Annop said the boat dropped off passengers at various piers. While the boat was heading to a pier at the Ayutthaya Hospital, another vessel forced the tourist boat’s captain to veer away and hit a concrete pole of the river embankment at Wat Sanamchai, causing the boat to begin to sink, Mr Annop said.
Local residents also said a similar boat sinking also occurred about five to six years ago because of overcrowding.
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