'I collect their scent': The man who keeps helmets of dead motorbike crash victims

Thailand’s roads are probably the most most threatening on the planet. Yearly round 20,000 folks die in deadly crashes.

Round three-quarters of all deaths are folks on two or three-wheeled cars.

Sompong Chanraksa, 60, started gathering used motorbike helmets virtually 50 years in the past. He these days has a number of greater than 700 taken from crash websites the place their earlier house owners have been steadily killed or injured. He spoke to Sky’s South East Asia Correspondent Siobhan Robbins.

Sompong Chanraksa
Sompong Chanraksa has a number of greater than 700 helmets taken from crash websites

It is onerous to explain Sompong Chanraksa’s lawn.

Whilst you stroll within the pressure, in entrance of a small shrine is a bike which to start with look seems to be sporting an grownup and kid.

On nearer inspection, they are mannequins, intentionally designed to seem actual.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
He made the mannequins to remind folks to place helmets on ahead of leaving house

In the back of the motorbike is a mound of helmets piled one on most sensible of one another, faintly paying homage to a pile of skulls you might even see at the set of Hollywood journey movie.

Additional in and the gathering expands, lining the fringe partitions, overflowing from cabinets, putting from bushes, peeping from the undergrowth.

Thailand road deaths

How Thailand’s roads kill greater than COVID-19

“I made those mannequins to remind folks to place helmets on ahead of leaving house for their very own protection,” Sompong explains as he starts his excursion.

“Infrequently they put their helmets of their entrance baskets. They really feel that they do not glance just right… So I take advantage of those helmets to remind folks while you pass to the marketplace, put on a helmet.”

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
Youngsters scared by means of the mannequins have crashed their bicycles

Selecting up a light piece from a moderately organised show, he says: “Those two helmets are many years previous. With this helmet, a bike crashed with a bus. The individual died all of sudden.

“It was once drizzling and I used to be consuming ahead of I went to paintings. I heard the bang and went out to peer. Two folks died… The coincidence responders did not gather helmets at the moment, so I introduced it again house from the coincidence website.”

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
A complete boundary wall is crowned with helmets

Across the nook, the entire boundary wall is crowned with helmets, each and every one has a tale which he recalls, without reference to how previous they’re.

“On this house, all of the helmets come from lifeless folks,” he continues. “Those folks have been motorcyclists who died in injuries they usually put their helmets within the baskets in their bikes.

“This one is from an overly critical coincidence as best part of it’s left. This helmet’s proprietor died on the website.”

As we stroll additional in, I see a wide-eyed plastic doll putting within the flower mattress. Its blonde hair and frame were bleached white by means of the solar.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
A plastic doll belonged to a kid who died

“This helmet and the doll belong to a kid,” Sompong explains. “She and one among her folks died in health facility however I do not know their names… [I] discovered the doll along with the helmet so I saved them each as I did not need to go away anything else at the back of.”

And so it is going on, cracked helmets, helmets which can be virtually totally destroyed, others which glance untouched, in addition to hubcaps and different bits of wreckage claimed from crash websites.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
The helmets lie amongst different bits of wreckage claimed from crash websites

“They’re down there too, lined with roots,” he says, pointing to a bunch which vegetation have grown via, tethering them to the valuables.

“Right here they’re at the area partitions, vines duvet them. I have not cleared them out as a result of it is wet season.”

At a number of issues at the excursion he stops and places probably the most helmets on.

“Those have been from commonplace injuries, most commonly the drivers were given damaged hands, they weren’t deadly. There are indicators of the injuries right here,” he says pointing to scuffs and scratches.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
Most of the helmets got here from individuals who died in injuries after placing them within the baskets in their bikes

“I most often put on those helmets, dressed in them like this,” he provides, pulling one over his head. “Infrequently, I do not have a helmet so I put on those to move out to the marketplace.”

I ask if he ever wears lifeless folks’s helmets?

“I have worn them again and again,” he replies.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
He says that after folks ask him what the stain is at the helmet he tells them it is paint

For Sompong, the gathering is a bodily protection reminder for his group, however the morbid assortment has sparked rumours the home is haunted.

He says kids scared by means of the mannequins within the pressure have crashed their bicycles into the trench out of doors. Adults who borrowed the helmets briefly returned them, complaining that they could not sleep and felt like they have been being adopted.

“Some folks got here to my area overdue at night time and requested if I used to be conserving a area birthday celebration. I stated no, there are best 3 to 4 folks in our circle of relatives. They did not consider me as they [said they] noticed such a lot of folks.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
Infrequently, when he does not have a helmet, he wears them to move out to the marketplace

“I do not really feel scared. My best feeling is in need of to assist them [the victims]. Leaving their helmets at the facet of the street does not glance delightful so I assumed I will have to assist them by means of retaining the helmets at house to seem great.

“Once I make benefit or give alms, I commit the benefit to the lifeless and the house owners of helmets which I accrued.”

We watch as he prays for the lifeless at a shrine in his lawn, lighting fixtures incense and making benefit to assist them go safely to the following rebirth, as is Buddhist custom.

Sompong Chanraksa lights incense
Sompong Chanraksa lighting fixtures incense to assist the crash sufferers go safely to the following rebirth

“Some folks may understand that it is disrespectful to the lifeless. However actually, I don’t believe so. I gather the helmets and they’re displayed as a reminder. I additionally requested for permission [to collect them]. I make benefit for them on a daily basis.”

Inside of the home he displays us 3 of the latest additions to his assortment, each and every moderately wrapped in a plastic bag “to gather their smell”.

He says they are going to keep like this for 6 months to a yr ahead of he places them out of doors with the remaining. This procedure is his means of retaining the recollections of the former house owners alive.

Helmets in Sompong Chanraksa's garden
His assortment has apprehensive some folks and impressed ghost tales

Whilst the gathering has apprehensive some folks and impressed ghost tales, Sompong says it has additionally brought about a lot of his neighbours to take highway protection extra severely.

It is a stark bodily reminder of the truth that the vast majority of folks killed on Thailand’s roads are bike riders.

“Most of the individuals who’ve come to my area have stated it’s essential to see helmets like this. If they do not put on their helmets, I may well be the one that is going to gather [them],” he says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *