Key witness in Thai Red Bull heir case dies in road accident

BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand said yesterday that a witness whose testimony was important in having hit-and-run charges dropped against an heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune has died in a traffic accident.

The accident in the northern province of Chiang Mai occurred late Wednesday night, just days after police made the surprise announcement that the last remaining criminal charge had been dropped against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, whose family owns about half of the Red Bull empire and is one of the richest in Thailand.

The announcement stirred outrage, and although there is no evidence that the witness’s death was suspicious, it is certain to intensify interest in the case.

Vorayuth, better known by the nickname “Boss”, was wanted in connection with a September 3, 2012, accident that occurred when his Ferrari struck and killed motorcycle policeman Sergeant Major Wichean Klunprasert.

Police spokesman Major Krissana Pattanacharoen confirmed yesterday that 40-year-old witness Jaruchart Mardthong died in a collision with another motorbike.

He was one of two witnesses who emerged years after the Ferrari crash to claim that Vorayuth was not exceeding the speed limit, and that the policeman appeared to be at fault for swerving in front of his car.

Several expert witnesses testified that their inspections also determined that Vorayuth had not exceeded the speed limit, contradicting the original forensic findings by police that he may have been travelling as fast as 177kph.