John Patrick Malone
An horrific road accident in Chiang Rai City led to the death of two people, among them a 39-year-old English language teacher who haled from Longford in Southern Ireland. A plethora of local and international newspapers reported the death, along with a rumour that he was having sex at the time of the crash: a rumour which was later proved to be false.
The fatal incident had already spread over several Thai Facebook and LINE groups before police in Chiang Rai province were even notified of the accident. Pol Lt Col Pasagon Suka, the Deputy Investigator and Superintendent of Mueang Chiang Rai Provincial Police Station, was dispatched together with a team of investigators. Four rescue volunteers from the Siam Ruam Jai Rescue Foundation, whose headquarter is just 500 metres away from the crash site, were on the scene shortly after hearing the noise of the actual crash.
Police told reporters that the accident had taken place on a four-lane highway. Phahonyothin Rd is one of Thailand’s four major highways and only 10 metres from the entrance to Nhongseejaeng Rd. in the Wieng subdistrict of Muang Chiang Rai district. Phahonyothin Rd, often referred to as Highway 1, is known to have been the scene of many road accidents over the past ten years.
“When we arrived, we saw a black Suzuki Swift, number plate กร 795 Chiang Rai, completely wrecked in front of CNY Import Export Co., Ltd.,” said Lead Investigator, Pol Lt Col Pasagon. CCTV footage obtained from a nearby building caught the vehicle being driven at an inordinate speed before glancing off barriers and other objects on the side of the road and being sent into a tail spin before coming to an abrupt standstill.
Pol Lt Col Pasagon made the following statement: “The car had been carrying four passengers. There were two rear passangers, an English language teacher named John Patrick Malone>, 39, from Ireland, and an unknown woman. Wedged in the front seats of the car was a male driver and a female passenger.”
Police chose not to identify the three survivors until their injuries had been assessed. However, Pol Lt Col Pasagon confirmed that they were all taken to Kasemrad Sriburin Hospital and were in a critical condition.
The evening after the accident, the commander of the rescue volunteers, Piradet Sawansag, whose team was the first on the scene, recorded a video statement. In it, he said that one part of his team tried to free the driver and front passenger while the other group administered first aid to Mr Malone and the woman who had been sitting next to him in the back seat.
In the video, the commander said, “Mr [Malone] was severely injured. We checked his wounds, and it was very bad. He was not responsive, and that meant he was in a critical condition. He still had a pulse, but it was very weak.” Rescuers called for a fully-equipped ambulance from Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital due to the severity of Mr Malone’s mutiple injuries.
Mr Piradet confirmed that the victim’s left leg had been fractured and some of the bones were found poking out of his leg. Doctors at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital later confirmed that Mr Malone’s had chest injuries and had also broken his pelvis.
When the horrific crash became public, several news websites purported that Mr Malone was having sexual intercourse with a woman in the backseat – a claim which commander Piradet dispelled in his video statement: “I want to confirm that Mr Malone still had his pants on at the scene. The reason he was taken from the wreckage semi-naked is because we had to cut his trouser off in order to apply a leg splint.”
The woman in the backseat who has stuck in the car also “had all her clothes on. She was not naked as the news stated.” A picture of the woman who was photographed in a curled-up position inside the car which some news websites said looked like she was naked was in fact due to a fracture to her arm which made it impossible for her to move, the commander said.
Mr Piradet asked the media to check their stories before publishing false ones. “I am very sad and sorry for Mr [Malone’s] family. (…) We felt incredibly sad after we heard the rumours in the news.”
Mr Malone had been teaching English at The Learning Academy which is less than one kilometre away from the crash site. He was well-liked by his students. The school’s Facebook page> confirmed the tragic accident, saying: “We have lost today one of our beloved teachers, John Malone. John was at the heart of TLC team, helping in every way with his usual smile and happy attitude. You will always be in our hearts. RIP John.”
In the aftermath of his death, students and teachers expressed their grief by writing letters and posting them on the walls of the classroom where Mr Malone used to work. “I’m very glad that I learned so many things with you”, one student wrote. “I will appreciate them and I’m very lucky that you taught me. You are absolutely and truly a great teacher, you will always be in my memory.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed Mr Malone’s death. A Buddhist funeral attended by friends, teachers, students and others who had known Mr Malone was held on June 27 at a temple nearby.
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