A freak accident on an unfinished rail bridge over the Mekong River in Laos has killed a 43-year-old crane truck driver, whose body was discovered nearly 50 miles downstream from where his vehicle was found hanging perilously upside down over raging waters, RFA has learned.
The accident occurred on Sept. 15 when the vehicle fell through a guard rail on the bridge in northern Laos’ Luang Prabang province.
Authorities and the construction company were looking for the driver shortly after the accident, a source living near the construction site told RFA’s Lao Service last week.
At the time of the accident, the vehicle had been installing streetlight posts on the bridge. The weight of the posts caused the crane to skid into a fenced guard rail, damaging it slightly.
The source said the driver may have become unconscious and fallen into the river below and drowned.
A member of a rescue team in Luang Prabang told RFA that a dead body, believed to be the driver’s, was recovered from the Mekong on the evening of Sept. 18 about 75 kilometers (47 miles) away from the construction site.
RFA contacted a family member of the driver, who asked not to be identified. She said the driver was employed by a Chinese company that had been subcontracted to work on the bridge project.
Upon investigation it was determined that the driver was at fault in the accident, but the family was able to completely settle with the company for an undisclosed amount and funeral costs.
The Lao-China railway project—now 83 percent complete—will be part of the part of the 257 mile (414 kilometer) Lao-China railway that will run from the Chinese border to near the capital Vientiane at the border with Thailand.
The railway is being touted as a boon for the impoverished nation of nearly 7 million people because it is expected to lower the cost of exports and consumer goods while boosting socioeconomic development.
The $6 billion project is due for completion in December 2021 and is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive Belt and Road Initiative of infrastructure to support trade with China.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.