Tragic trajectory: man’s head blown off by festival rocket

SAKON NAKHON: A man had his head blown off while watching an annual homemade rocket festival in this northeastern town on May 11.

The victim and his friends chose to have a drinking session in a cordoned off area where rockets were landing at the time of the incident.

Police were called to the scene in Village 3, Tambon Dong Mafai, Muang District, at 3:30 pm.

After pushing through a large crowd of villagers, they found the headless body of 29-year-old Prida Wongnatal lying next to a pond. The stump of his neck was blackened with powder burns.

Near the body, police found the rocket that had decapitated Mr Prida, who was a native of Tao Ngoi District.

The projectile was about three-meters long, its head made of PVC piping three to four inches in diameter.

Rescue volunteers who dived into the pond to recover Mr Prida’s head were only able to find small fragments.

Sakda Duangsupha, who witnessed the tragedy, said the rocket that killed Mr Prida was the third one launched at the festival. The first two had shot up into the air, but the third took a horizontal trajectory towards Mr Prida and six or seven friends who were sitting drinking about 50 meters away from the launch pad, located by the edge of the pond.

As they saw the rocket screaming towards them, the youths dived out of the way, but Mr Prida was not quick enough. After the impact, he fell back into the pond.

Pulling him out, his friends were shocked to discover that he had no head, Mr Sakda said.

The area where Mr Prida and his friends were drinking had been roped off because of the danger of rockets passing through. With a sense of invincibility typical of youth, the group ignored the warnings, Mr Sakda explained.

Police are now investigating to determine whether Mr Prida’s demise was a case of death by his own negligence or whether the festival’s organizers were responsible.

Rocket festivals are held annually in towns across the Northeast to mark the start of the rainy season. This is not the first, and no doubt not the last, tragedy at such festivals. In 1999, five people were killed at the Yasothon festival, the biggest and most famous of them all, when a 120kg rocket exploded immediately after takeoff.

— Khao Sod

Phuket News
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