-Victims named as Conrad Jame Quashie, Maximilian Hugo Ulrich Boomgaarden-Cook and Bruno Albert Melling-Firth
-Maximilian's father: He emailed me the day before he died and signed off with ten kisses. I can't believe he's coming back in a metal container
By Neil Sears and Christian Gysin
Three gap year students have been killed in a road crash in Thailand just days after beginning their ‘trip of a lifetime’.
School friends Conrad Quashie, 19, Max Boomgaarden-Cook, 20, and Bruno Melling-Firth, 19, had saved for months before setting off from Heathrow on Thursday last week for a tour of South-East Asia.
Their parents had warned them to stay away from drugs and motorbikes – but they died instantly early on Tuesday when the coach in which they were travelling from Bangkok to the northern town of Chiang Mai was hit from behind by a bus.
Killed: (left to right) Bruno Melling-Firth, Max Boomgaarden-Cook and Conrad Quashie died after their bus was hit by another vehicle in Thailand
Rescue efforts: Rescuers tried desperately to rescue the trapped holidaymakers
Wreckage: The three men are said to have died instantly
Conrad, who had been due to start university in Manchester with Max in September, had celebrated his 19th birthday in the Thai capital on Saturday with his two friends and girlfriend Elisa Smith, who then flew back to London.
The trio set off on Monday by overnight bus for the north, planning to go trekking in the hills to visit tribal villages.
Tragedy struck shortly after midnight. Some 40 passengers from all over the world were injured, including another Briton who is still in hospital.
Last night distraught relatives paid tribute to the adventurous boys who all had promising futures when they left Charter School in Dulwich, South London, last year after finishing their A-levels.
Conrad’s mother Amanda Bean, 48, an English teacher, said at her home in nearby Denmark Hill: ‘Conrad was due to go to Manchester Metropolitan University in September with his friend Max who also died in this tragic accident.
Chiang Mai: The boys had been heading to the northern Thai city, 422 miles north of Bangkok
'They were inseparable friends and they had even applied to live in the same hall of residence.’ Conrad was due to study history.
Miss Bean, who is separated from Conrad’s father Paul Quashie, 47, a computer financial analyst, said the families had met before the trip to talk about the possible dangers on holiday.
‘We drummed into them not to hire motorbikes, to stay away from drugs, and not do anything silly,’ she said. ‘But than they have had this terrible accident. It was not their fault and there was nothing they could do about it.’
She added that a friend of the boys who had survived the crash, a 19-year-old called Jack, had returned to London and told the parents the accident was over very quickly and ‘there was nothing the boys would have known about it’.
Max’s father Gerhard Boomgaarden, 48, who works in publishing, said at his home in Herne Hill, South London: ‘I am absolutely devastated. I did not know human bodies could produce so many tears. It is such an intense pain that will never go away.
‘He was such an incredibly bright boy with a big future ahead of him.’
Max was due to study history and politics and was a regular volunteer for a leukaemia charity.
His father said he had been planning the nine-week tour of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia for years. Mr Boomgaarden said: ‘A few years ago he said to me, “Dad, before I am twenty I will have travelled around South-East Asia”.
‘It was a dream of his. I never dreamt he would be coming back in a metal container. The one consolation is I understand their deaths were instantaneous.
‘Just the day before the accident I received an email from Max and he said they were all having a wonderful time. The thing is, he said how much he loved me, and he signed it with ten kisses.’
School friends: All three of the gap year students were pupils at The Charter School in Dulwich, South London
Mr Boomgaarden said Max’s stepmother Madeleine was also distraught, as well as his brothers Leo, 16, and Ivan, six, and stepbrother Leon, 13. Max’s mother Polly Cook, who lives nearby, was so upset she could ‘barely talk’.
Bruno’s mother Gillian Melling, who lives in Central London, was too upset to speak.
David Sheppard, head teacher at The Charter School, said the teenagers were ‘delightful young people’ who had joined in the sixth form.
‘They settled in very quickly and they were really well liked amongst the community,’ he said. ‘They were credits to their families and they were really looking forward to making a contribution to society.’