Two people were killed and nine injured after their minibus hit and injured a wild elephant which vets are now desperately trying to find.
The silver Toyota was carrying the group to a temple when the the driver collided with the five-tonne adult elephant in thick fog on Sunday morning at 5am.
Police said the jumbo smashed into the windscreen and crushed the front of the van trapping the driver and a female passenger in the front.
The beast was knocked to the ground then struggled to its feet and limped away into the forest leaving a trail of blood on the ground in Chachoengsao.
Forestry officials are now searching for the injured pachyderm amid fears it needs urgent medical attention.
Dacha Ninwichian, head of the Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, said he has sent a team of conservationists to join the search of the area.
He said: ”We found that the elephant had collided with the van and the treatment of the elephant is now urgent.
”Witnesses reported that the elephant left the area after the accident. A toe nail belonging to the elephant was found on the road and there was also blood from the elephant.
”Vets have seen one elephant in the forest that was struggling to walk. It was in a herd of five other elephants. We continue to track it to provide care.”
Police said the van driver, Somchai Sapsamruay, 54, and female passenger Yada Saennamwong, 47, were killed after teir bodies were trapped in the wreckage.
Nine of the other passengers, eight of which were women, were also seriously injured and taken to hospital for treatment.
Officials said the van that crashed was the second vehicle in a convoy of three others which had been taking Thai locals from the area on a day trip to a temple in Roi-et province in the north of the country.
Boonmee Khaodee, 52, the driver of the first van in the convoy, said that he returned to the scene of the accident and saw the elephant slumped against the front of the wrecked mini van.
It tried to get up, fell back down, then eventually pulled itself up and struggled away into the forest, he said.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Nurat Chanthakhun, from the Sanam Chai Khet district police station, said: ”The crash happened at approximately 5am and police arrived quickly to the scene to provide assistance and direct traffic.
”Elephants are an ever-present risk for drivers in areas near to forest. Motorists need to take care when travelling through the areas with elephants.”
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