Recovery of Thai bodies in California highly challenging

Thiwadee “Min” Saengsuriyarit, 24, and Pakkapol “Golf” Chairattanasongporn, 28, were trapped in their vehicle when it plunged off a mountain road on their way to Kings Canyon National Park in California. (Photo from Facebook page)

American authorities insist they need to proceed with extreme caution to recover the bodies of two Thai students from a river 150 metres below a cliff in California, according to the Thai consulate in Los Angeles.

Thai officials relayed the views of California rescuers on Friday amid in the Thai community about the delay in retrieving the bodies from the car that plunged into the gorge near Fresno on July 26.

There are concerns about the safety of the retrieval team, as well as the possibility that if anything goes wrong, the bodies could be swept down the river and irretrievably lost, the consulate quoted local officials in Fresno as saying.

Thanee Saengrat, the Thai consul-general in Los Angeles, phoned Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig twice to inquire about the recovery, the consulate said. Mr Magsig said the army had sent a Chinook helicopter capable of lifting a car to survey the scene and assess how to recover the rented car resting on a rock in the middle of the river.

Rescuers had to make sure that the deep valley was wide enough for the helicopter to operate safely, the consulate reported.

Consular officials quoted Mr Magsig as saying he attached importance to both the recovery and the safety of recovery personnel. Officials also feared that the airlift of the wreck could result in the car breaking apart and the students’ bodies could be washed away over a waterfall not far downstream.

Thiwadee “Min” Saengsuriyarit, 24, and her male friend Pakkapol Chairattanasongporn, 28, also known as Golf, were trapped in their vehicle when it plunged off a mountain road on their way to Kings Canyon National Park in northern California. 

The pair were reported missing on July 28. Their wrecked vehicle was only found last Wednesday, half-submerged on a large rock in the river at the base of the 150-metre cliff beside California State Route 180.

The Thai consul-general in Los Angeles inspects the scene

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