Ravine crash zone closed to public

Photo from the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles

United States officials have forbidden any parties from entering the area where a Thai students’ car fell into a ravine around two weeks ago, the Thai consulate in Los Angeles said yesterday, citing legal and safety concerns.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s search and rescue department is scheduled to send in experts on Tuesday or Wednesday to plan the recovery mission as the river’s water level goes down, the consulate said, referring to a briefing by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

The two Thai students, identified as Pakkapol Chairattanasongporn, 28, and Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit, 24, were travelling to the Kings Canyon National Park, California, in a rental car that appeared to have hurtled over a cliff on July 26.

The wreckage got stuck on rocks in the middle of the fast-flowing river.

The river receives large volumes of melted snow from the nearby mountain, leading to high water levels. Compounded with the rapids’ speed and strong winds in the area, this has made the rescue operation challenging, the consulate official said.

As of Friday, the tide was running at a rate of 667 cubic feet per second.

The officers plan to wait until the rate drops to 400 cubic feet per second, said Ms Mims.

The Thai consulate in Los Angeles wrote on Facebook that the families of the students had met with Fresno executive Nathan Magsig as well as Ms Mims and search and rescue unit chief Lt Kathy Curtis.

Meanwhile, Michelle Steel, chairwoman of the Orange County supervisory board, also joined a teleconference about the rescue.

The victims’ families and Thai expat community in Los Angeles said they wanted the recovery to be completed quickly as it had already been delayed several times.

The search and rescue unit and California National Guard plan to send helicopters to assess the site’s accessibility, wind speed and tide.

Last week the Thai consulate in Los Angeles wrote on its website that it was…

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