A three-year-old girl miraculously survived the Thailand nursery massacre after sleeping through the ordeal covered in a blanket.
Paweenuch Supolwong emerged unscathed after former police officer Panya Kamrap killed 36 people, including 24 pre-school children as they were taking an afternoon nap, during the attack on Thursday.
She is believed to be the only person to escape uninjured after violence unfolded at a day care facility in the rural town of Uthai Sawan, in Thailand‘s deadliest mass killing.
Another boy, Sumaee, was stabbed and shot twice but survived after skilled neurosurgeons removed two bullets from his head.
Paweenuch was in a deep slumber facing a wall when the attacker burst into the building and did not see or hear the attack.
She survived because Kamrap, 34, believed she was already dead, her mother Anonpai Srithong said.
Rescue workers carried the three-year-old out of the centre with her eyes covered to avoid her witnessing the devastating scene of carnage.
Her best friend, who was sleeping next to her, was among the victims of the tragedy.
Mrs Srithong described her relief after learning her daughter was alive.
At the time, she and her husband were at work in a Bangkok electronics factory almost 500 miles away from Uthai Sawan.
The couple moved to the Thai capital for work, leaving their three-year-old in their care of her grandmother, but made a panic-stricken journey back to the town after the attack.
“Breathing was difficult, I can’t describe it, but when I found out my child survived I was relieved,” Mrs Srithong told the Associated Press.
“But I also wanted to know if she had any injuries, if there was any collateral damage.”
Mrs Srithong said her cousin was also killed in the massacre.
“There’s both good luck hidden in bad luck – I’m lucky that my child is okay but I lost my cousin,” she said.
“For some people, some lost an only child who was their hope.”
Mrs Srithong and her daughter attended a Buddhist temple service to pay their respects to the victims.
Mourners have flocked to Paweenuch, tying dozens of white, yellow and red “soul strings” around her wrists in the hope of helping her spirit survive the atrocity.
They believe a person loses part of their soul when they experience such a tragedy.
“It is to bring the spirit back into her body,” her mother said.
“It’s like the spirit had left the body and it is being called back.”
Nanticha Panchom, the teacher who runs the day care centre, was in the kitchen when she heard a shot fired outside.
“I never thought he would go inside,” she said.
“I can’t even imagine what this lost generation will mean to the community.”
Police identified the attacker as Kamrap, who was fired over a drug charge.
He continued his killing spree after leaving the nursery, before shooting his wife and child at home then turning the gun on himself, police said.
Thailand’s government is giving compensation to families to help them pay for funeral expenses.
A team of trauma experts has been dispatched from Bangkok to work alongside local mental health professionals to help the victims.