Chapter 7: The Fallen Camera

My most poignant memory of The Deerhunter in Thailand is sadly one of tragedy. I was very close to Katrina Franken. Shrimp was driving the car that killed her on the production shift upcountry from Bangkok. The road, which wound through Karst Mountains, past the provincial capital of Kanchanaburi, in the direction of the Burmese border, was dirt, but smooth-surfaced. One long curve in particular, was treacherous because it kept going, just when one would expect it to straighten out. It was there Shrimp slid off the road and the car rolled down a steep embankment to a stream at the bottom.

 Shrimp got off relatively lightly with a badly injured back. Katrina died from a compound fracture to her thigh, which severed the femoral artery, and also because the Hollywood-hired nurse, refused to let her be moved until an ambulance arrived, because she was afraid of bureaucracy, and taking action outside of the American rules of ‘proper procedure’. Consequently, Katrina bled to death.

 

Thailand is not California. It was, and in parts, is still rural Asia. It’s not about malpractice lawyers and liability; it’s about saving someone’s life. Time and distance. In a life or death situation, you don't wait for an ambulance to come from 40 kilometers away, especially when someone has to drive nearly that far to alert the hospital in Kanchanaburi. There were no cell phones back then and villages few and far between.

 I partly blame myself for Katrina’s death. For no particular good reason, I left Bangkok later that day on my 400cc single cylinder Yamaha. Had I been with the convoy and reached the scene soon after the accident, I could have taken charge of the situation and with the help of Thais, and force if necessary, gotten her in to a vehicle and driven like hell to the hospital. At least, she might have had a chance.

 As it was, when I turned up around 5:00 pm at the River Kwai Lodge, the center of operations, the first thing someone, the nurse if I remember correctly, said to me was, "There's been a death!"

 Katrina was a fine human being, a strong woman of beauty, compassion and good humour. It was left to Richard to take care of their son Tao, who was about 4 at the time. After the final wrap, I stayed with Richard in Bangkok and played a small part in Tao's day-to-day upbringing, until, a year and a half later; he went to stay in Switzerland with Katrina's parents. Richard still lives in Bangkok. Tao, an extreme sports enthusiast, tragically died last year from sleep apnea, while on a camping trip with his son near Chiang Mai.