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Horrific cadet skydiving deaths blamed on police

BANGKOK: On March 31, 2014, a group of nine police cadets were preparing for skydiving training at the Naresuan camp in Phetchaburi’s Cha-am district. The drill was part of a mandatory course for the young cadets, who were in their second year.

By Bangkok Post

Monday 25 June 2018, 08:51AM

Master-parachutist investigators quickly found a defective chute attachment that was later found responsible for the trainees’ parachutes not opening. Inset, family of a dead trainee examines where his body was found. Photos: Military pool, FB/NAKON45

Master-parachutist investigators quickly found a defective chute attachment that was later found responsible for the trainees’ parachutes not opening. Inset, family of a dead trainee examines where his body was found. Photos: Military pool, FB/NAKON45

The training, however, turned to tragedy when two cadets died after their parachutes failed to open.

The cause of the fatal accidents was to do with the static lines used to deploy the cadets’ parachutes. Both lines snapped.

Two young and promising lives were lost.

The first was Chayakorn Putthachaiyong, 19. The other was Nathawuth Tirasuwannasuk, 21. Apart from the two deaths, two other cadets suffered from rough landings.

“We did not want him to be a policeman. But he always wanted to be policeman,” Sathon Putthachaiyong, father of the late Mr Chayakorn, told the Bangkok Post.

The death of children is naturally painful for parents, but the pain for Mr Sathon is overbearing and rarely goes away.

Mr Sathon, a teacher at a school in Ratchaburi, came to see his son’s parachuting exercise on March 31 at the training site. The father saw his only child plunge from the plane and fall to the ground.

The families of the dead cadets went to court seeking justice and compensation.

On May 21 this year the Administrative Court in Phetchaburi awarded more than B6.5 million in compensation to the families of two police cadets. The Administrative Court held the Royal Thai Police (RTP) responsible for negligence resulting in the two deaths and ordered it to pay compensation to the families.

According to the court’s ruling, RTP officials failed to make sure that the maintenance of the parachute equipment was up to standard before it was used in the exercise.

Mr Chayakorn’s family had been awarded B2.365mn plus annual interest of 7.5% while the family of Mr Nathawuth was given B2.367mn plus annual interest of 7.5%.

Yet Mr Sathon said justice has not been served.

“It has been four and a half years since my boy passed away. There has been no support from the public not to mention defendants because everyone denied the responsibilities,” Mr Sathon said.

Mr Sathon said the compensation is not all he wants.

What still upsets him is that 10 out of 11 officials and authorities involved in providing the parachutes were acquitted.

Mr Sathon said he wants to set a standard by taking to the Criminal Court all parties involved in providing parachutes.

QSI International School Phuket

The investigation had a total of 11 defendants; seven members from the Thai Aviation Industries (TAI), one member of Thai Airways International (THAI) and three members of the Thai Police Aviation Division.

“They acquitted all defendants and ended up only filing charges against one TAI member who was responsible for buying the substandard slings,” Mr Sathon said.

Mr Sathon is keen to take the other defendants to the Criminal Court.

On June 1, he submitted a petition to the Office of the Attorney-General, complaining the court has been silent on developments in the case despite having adequate information to file charges against the wrong-doers.

He said he wants the court to look into the purchase of substandard slings because he believed there are some irregularities which need to be exposed.

Based on the official record of the investigation, the sling used for the parachuting drill that day was substandard.

The official slings that are supposed to be used for the police cadet parachute training cost B99,000 a piece and two are required for each plane.

The investigation revealed that the substandard sling in question was bought for under B5,000 and required technicians from TAI to manually modify it in order for it to fit, according to official information from the probe.

Mr Sathon said he wondered why THAI did not have an expert in the types of plane used for parachuting and has a concession to supply the plane to the cadet school for practice. THAI then forwarded the job to TAI. It is only personnel from TAI who are legally responsible.

Mr Sathon also submitted details of the questionable parachute sling supplied and went to national television to tell the story.

Mr Sathon knew he is fighting against defendants who are larger than himself.

He said he has constantly received death threats since he tried to bring the case to court and gave interviews to media.

Two years ago, soldiers came to see him at school without a prior appointment.

Instead of laying low or just stopping the lawsuit, Mr Sathon retaliated by submitting names of suspects – some of them officials who make a threat to the Office of the Attorney-General.

Read original story here.



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