BANGKOK — For several days, social media heaped praise on a celebrity actor and DJ who was seen helping a teenager injured by a motorcycle accident.
The incident took place in the early hours of April 27 in Bang Khen. Chawalit Simankhongtham said at the time he saw the teenger hit by another motorcyclist, who fled the scene, so he stopped his car and went out to help tend the victim’s wounds. The teeanger, 18-year-old Jirapas Thong-asa, later died of his injuries on Tuesday.
“He’s so kind-hearted. This is someone the society wants,” wrote the person who first shared the story to Facebook.
But the 34-year-old DJ admitted on Thursday – eight days later – to crashing his car into the motorbike, for which police are now pressing charges against him. The investigation only took off after a complaint was filed by the deceased teenager’s embittered mother.
“On the first day we talked to him, he only said two motorcycles crashed into each other and he happened to be at the scene,” investigator Chainarong Daengsongkhum of Sai Mai Police Station said by telephone. “Yesterday he admitted to being the driver.”
For the crash, Chawalit was charged with fatal reckless driving, driving without a license and driving without mandatory insurance. Police said they have CCTV footage of the scene as evidence against Chawalit, who also works as TV personality.
At the police station yesterday, Chawalit also encountered Somkuan Thong-asa, mother of the teenager he killed. He gave Somkuan a hug, wai in apology, and pulled out a stack of money, said to be 30,000 baht, to cover the funeral’s cost.
When Somkuan hesitated, the DJ pressed on with the money, saying he only wanted to help and that it wouldn’t affect the case. Somkuan only accepted upon her lawyer’s advice.
Somkuan later told reporters she was upset by Chawalit’s refusal to come forward earlier.
“If the DJ truly wanted to take responsibility, he should have gone to the funeral since day one,” Somkuan said. “If the media didn’t report the news, he might not have showed up at all.”
Lt. Col. Chainarong said Chawalit wouldn’t face charges of hit-and-run because he did show up at the police station shortly after the accident to file a report about the crash, though at the time he did not identify himself as the driver.
Speaking to reporters at the police station, Chawalit said he was shocked by what happened.
“What happened on that day unfolded very quickly,” Chawalit said. “I was driving along normally, then a motorcycle came out of nowhere, and I saw there was someone injured so I stopped my car to help.”
He also disputed one eyewitness’ account that he tried to flee the scene; Chawalit said he was merely moving his car to the side the road to avoid further accident.
Police did not identify any suspect until Jirapas’ mother filed a complaint to police on Tuesday and urged them to seek out Chawalit as the driver who fatally injured her son. Chawalit still told the media he was not involved in the crash, but police soon obtained footage of the scene which they said clearly identified Chawalit as the driver.
Chawalit only showed up to the police station to acknowledge the charges on Thursday. He reportedly told police he had busy schedule.
“We contacted him many times to come talk to us, but he said he wasn’t ready. He has a lot of appointments,” investigator Chainarong said.
Police will now question other witnesses before submitting the case to the prosecutor, he added.