Rescuers seek to recover students' bodies from auto in California river

Ebony Scott
August 13, 2017

They were heading to Kings Canyon National Park when their vehicle plunged off a highway into a 150metre deep gorge about two weeks ago.

Thiwadee "Min" Saengsuriyarit, 24, and Pakkaphol "Gof" Chairattanasongporn, 28, students at the University of Florida, were reported missing on July 26.

Thanee Saengrat, the Thai consul-general in Los Angeles, phoned Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig twice to inquire about the recovery, the consulate said.

Hopes that the pair survived the accident were dashed when Consulate General Tanee Sangrat said this week that the bodies of the students had been found in the vehicle. Steel told the families that she had been informed by the Fresno county office that a rescue team would descend the cliff and draw up a plan to retrieve the students and the vehicle. The Thai consulate in Los Angeles is in touch with the victim's families, as well as officials working on recovery efforts.

The Thai consulate in Los Angeles said in a statement that they are working closely with local police on the matter and have notified the families of the missing students who are still waiting for confirmation on their identities.

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I would like family members to know that recovering their loved ones is a top priority at my office right now. "We appreciate your patience and understanding".

The consulate has expressed frustration for how long the recovery has taken. Two days later, a nearby hotel that had heard about the accident informed police that two Thai tourists had left the hotel on the morning of July 26 and never returned. A military helicopter was used to survey the area Thursday. A helicopter dispatched to the crash site was able to take pictures of the vehicle - but since all the air bags had deployed inside the auto, authorities couldn't say for certain whether anyone was inside.

"To reiterate, recovering the bodies is a top priority, but the safety of our personnel is also a top concern, and it will dictate any efforts we make moving forward with the operation", Mims said Thursday.

'A date of when this will happen is still to be determined, ' he added.

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