The high school students were travelling from Khon Kaen province to Chanthaburi.
The blue Scania bus, licence number 30-1027 registered in Ubon Ratchathani, had picked up 44 students and six teachers from Pungtuipattanasuksa School in Nam Phong district of Khon Kaen, where they had all gathered to make merit before leaving.
The bus was heading for the Khung Kraben Bay Royal Development Study Centre in Chanthaburi. The trip was a reward for the students after completing their final exams.
The bus ran off the narrow road in the dark at a 45-degree curve on a downhill section of Highway 304 (Nakhon Ratchasima-Na Di), in the area where Khao Yai and Thap Lan national parks adjoin, said Wang Khon Daeng Police Deputy Superintendent Lt Col Mongkol Chanploy.
The wrecked coach came to a stop in a ravine about 20 metres below the highway.
Three teachers and two students died at the scene. Forty-four others were rushed to Nadi Hospital and Kabin Buri Hospital. Another teacher succumbed to injuries at Nadi Hospital.
The 33-year-old driver of the coach, identified as Wandee Phumphuang, fled.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered a ban on the registration of new double-decker tour buses in January after the worst New Year death and injury road toll on record.
The 4,800 double-decker buses and 16,000 single-deck buses with a height of more than 3.6 metres already in operation must all pass a strict tilt test on a 30-degree slope. Any that fail to pass the test must be taken out of service, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. (See story here.)
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