Bangkok blast victim: 'I lost everything'

The Neoh family eating happily together the day before the explosion. All family members pictured in the selfie were killed except for Neoh Ee Ling, second from left, and Neoh Hock Guan, third from right.

Story highlights

  • Bodies are being sent back to victims' home countries
  • One Malaysian family of seven left devastated after losing five members
  • Victims' families and well-wishers gathered at the reopened shrine to pay respects

(CNN)For 53-year-old Neoh Hock Kwan, a family holiday turned to tragedy in an instant.

From Malaysia, he was on holiday in Bangkok with six other members of his extended family. Monday's blast killed five of them -- his wife Lim Saw Gek and her sister Lim Soo Say, his son Neoh Jai Jun, son-in-law Lee Tze Siang and granddaughter Lee Jing Xuan, just five years old.
    Four of those bodies returned to Penang late Wednesday evening.
    Dozens of the family's friends waited in the airport's cargo area to receive the coffins, which were taken to the Penang General Hospital mortuary.
    Bells rang as men loaded the coffins one by one into vans, while on-looking mourners clasped their hands in prayer.
    Left with only his daughter Yee Ling and nursing injuries himself, he told CNN, "I lost everything."
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    "At that time I was praying in the temple. I felt a strong hit as if I was pushed. I felt like everything was lost when I got up. I tried to find my family members but they were gone," he said.
    Relatives of the 20 that died in the blast have gathered at a Bangkok hospital. Many are in tears, some sobbing so strongly that they have to be carried out.
    Authorities have set up a victims center, as officials go about the grim task of trying to identify bodies and arranging for their return home.
    Nazirah Hussain, Malaysia's ambassador to Thailand, said she was assisting with the repatriation of the bodies. "(This is a) very difficult time because there are five of our nationals," she said.
    The family is "of course under tremendous grief and pressure but they are holding up well," she added. "They are being very stoic about it all."
    "We were at the airport accompanying the remains. We are quite happy that we are able to do this today for the last victim [identified] because the family is waiting."

    Returning home

    A man surnamed Chang and his daughter flew back to Taiwan in wheelchairs after suffering deep injuries to their legs.
    He recalled the aftermath of the blast at the airport in a video carried by Reuters.
    "My daughter and I dragged ourselves all the way to the Louis Vuitton shop at the corner. Both of our legs were bleeding and we couldn't move at all. Other people were yelling while carrying us."

    Shrine reopened

    In Bangkok, tributes have flowed in for the victims at the shrine, which reopened to the public Wednesday morning.
    Grief-stricken relatives offered up incense and flowers to mourn their losses as monks clad in orange robes chanted prayers to help release the souls of the dead.
    There's visible damage to one of the faces of the Brahma statue, the Hindu god the shrine is dedicated to, but otherwise, it is mostly intact.
    Over where a bench used to stand -- the same one that police believe the suspect placed a backpack under before detonating the bomb -- authorities have poured fresh cement. Next to it is a metal fence that was bent by the force of the blast.

    Why I came

    Wichan Phongpanich and his partner, Anne Songsri Noen-nark, were among the well-wishers who came to pay their respects.
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    "I came to give my prayers here this morning at the shrine after I heard about what bad things had happened here, asking the gods to quickly catch the man that did this," Anne said. "I am so disheartened and so sad this happened and it is so bad for our country."
    "I am in the tourism business, renting out vans for tourists, and we've been really affected the past couple days," she continued. "We used to send out seven to eight vans [every day] but now we're down to four or five because of the [lack of] Chinese tour groups."
    She added: "We are [furious], if the suspect is caught.... [he should be] lynched."

    Aimed at tourists

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    Although no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the deadly explosion, authorities and experts say that one thing is sure: the attack was designed to be a direct hit on tourism, the lifeblood of the Thai economy.
    The Thai capital is immensely popular with holidaymakers and the blast occurred at one of the city's busiest intersections near international hotels and shopping malls.
    Eight nationalities -- seven from surrounding Asian countries and at least one Briton -- are among the dead.
    In the aftermath of Monday's attack, 23 countries issued travel advisories to Thailand, while Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council canceled all tours to Bangkok until the end of the month.

    'We saw cars on fire'

    Leify Porter, from Australia, witnessed the explosion from a pedestrian bridge directly above where the bomb went off.
    "We saw cars on fire, and a lot of people seriously injured and deceased. We all, sort of, dropped to the ground. It was a huge impact," Porter said. "My ears are still ringing and I have a huge headache. Being on a sky bridge, everything shook beneath us."
    Despite such horrible scenes, some tourists say they are not deterred from visiting.
    Nawaki Masemura, from Japan, arrived in the city for the first time on Wednesday.
    "I wasn't going to cancel my trip," Masumura said. "I wanted to come to Bangkok. It's a beautiful city and many things to see. But since I heard of the news two days ago of the bomb, I wanted to come and see it myself."
    "I'm not scared at all," he said.

    'Never seen anything like this before'

    Over 120 people were also injured in the blast, including 20-year-old motorbike driver Theerasak Kultham. From the rural Kalasin province, he came to seek job opportunities in Bangkok.
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    Theerasak went to the Ministry of Justice to apply for compensation from the government after sustaining two shrapnel wounds. Each injured victim is entitled to up to 100,000 Thai baht or around $2800.
    He told CNN he was carrying a passenger on his motorbike, and was waiting at the red light at the Rajprasong intersection when the bomb went off.
    "I heard the blast. I turned back to look at where the sound came from and saw people scattered on the streets everywhere. I decided to abandon my bike and ran off to the other side," Theerasak said.
    When Theerasak touched his back, he saw blood all over his shirt, but said he could not feel anything because it was numb. His passenger's arm was covered in blood.
    Theerasak is still shaken from this incident. He thinks he would like to spend some time away from Bangkok, perhaps go back to his hometown.
    "I have never seen anything like this before in my life," he said.