“We have 25 to 30 signatures already. After last night’s accident (see story here), we are heading out to gather more signatures today,” said Danish national Per Butler, who has lived in the Baan Mon community at the bottom of Patong Hill for 16 years.
“The driver deserves great credit as only his cool reaction prevented a fatal disaster by driving the bus up against the wall,” Mr Butler told The Phuket News today.
“Those who do not deserve great credit are the politicians that don’t want to fix this problem,” he added.
Mr Butler is only one of many in Baan Mon who are tired of having runaway tour buses wreaking deadly havoc as they continue to crash at the bottom of the hill.
He has already presented to Patong Municipality the group’s proposal for all heavy vehicles be diverted away from Phisit Koranee Rd, which is where most runaway vehicles end up crashing into houses and buildings before stopping.
To highlight the problem, the group has posted a compilation video on YouTube showing a litany of deadly accidents that have plagued the community in just the past handful of years. (See right.)
The proposal calls for traffic at the Wat Suwankhiriwong (Wat Patong) end of Phisit Koranee Rd to be made one-way only, exiting onto Phra Baramee Rd, which continues over Patong Hill.
The proposal also calls for some form of barrier to be installed to prevent any vehicles from entering Phisit Koranee Rd after descending the steep hill, either intentionally or otherwise.
“The mayor was not available, and the deputy mayor I spoke to almost threw it away immediately,” Mr Butler recalled.
“Another official at the Public Works Division just said, ‘Impossible... Impossible … Impossible ...’,” he added.
However, Mr Butler did note that some of the officials he has spoken have shown some concern.
“They admitted the corner was dangerous and a few years ago installed the concrete barrier at the bottom of the hill, but that is a danger in itself,” he said.
Mr Butler noted that drivers of out-of-control trucks and tour buses swerved to avoid colliding into the concrete barrier, but as the descent falls 2.7 meters in the last 150 meters when descending the hill, the vehicles were already travelling too fast to negotiate the 92º corner in front of the temple.
“That’s why they keep ending up crashing in the small residential street off Phisit Koranee Rd,” Mr Butler explained.
In February, the driver of yet-another runaway tour bus - another victim of brake failure - was killed when front of the bus was crushed as the juggernaut rammed into a power pole in the small street. A further 17 Chinese tourists on board the bus were rushed to hospital. (See story here).
“I give some officials credit for trying to do something. They did one time install speed reducers on the hill, but that lasted about 10 days and they removed them again,” he noted.
“Now everything is back to normal,” Mr Butler noted sourly.
“We have been in contact with the Ombudsman’s Office in Bangkok, which seemed to have inspired the speed reducers. We will present our idea to the Ombudsman in Phuket when we think we have enough signatures,” Mr Butler explained.
“This is unacceptable. This road is in a residential area. We have kids playing on the street.” Mr Butler pointed out.
“The road was not built for this kind of traffic. It was never intended for concrete trucks and large tour buses. Now we have a new bypass road through Patong – the new Phang Muang Sai Kor Rd – which is wide enough and runs the entire length of Patong,” he said.
“All heavy traffic should be directed to go down that road, not come through here,” he added.