A BUDDHIST statue collapsed and killed the religious leader who had just unveiled it in a freak accident in Thailand on Monday.

Village chief Saman Chanthayothi, 52, was the guest of honour at the ceremony in Khon Kaen where the statue was unveiled.

The monument was intended to bring good luck and fortune to local residents.

But as the chief tugged away the cloth, the foundations cracked and the giant Buddha fell onto Saman’s head, pinning him to the ground.

Locals scattered in panic but when the cloud of dust had settled, they gathered around and found the village leader trapped and already dead.

Residents were unable to lift the 16ft monument and waited for the emergency services to arrive to winch it away with a crane.

One resident, Surapol Thepboonma said: “I was standing beside Saman when he was unwrapping the statute.

“Suddenly I heard a crack and people were panicking. They ran in different ways.

“We gathered around the fallen statue after the dust had settled and we were shocked to find our village chief lying dead under the statue with his head crushed.”

District sheriff Supachai Leekhaosoong arrived at the scene with police, paramedics and rescue volunteers.

They discovered that the statue’s concrete base was not strong enough, which caused it to fall while being unveiled.

The family took the body to the temple to be held there for a religious ceremony.

They accepted the explanation that the death was an accident and did not request further investigations.

– Daily Mail