The Vietnamese victims of UK truck tragedy

Saturday November 09 2019

A police officer secures the cordon at the scene where a lorry, found to be containing 39 dead bodies, was discovered at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, in this Oct. 23, 2019 file photo. AFP PHOTO

British police on Friday confirmed the names of the 39 victims, who are all Vietnamese nationals, found dead in a refrigerated truck in southeast England last month. 

AFP spoke last month and this week to several of the families, many of whom came from the same area in Vietnam. 

Here are profiles of some of the victims:

Hoang Van Tiep, 18

From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. 

After Tiep dropped out of high school, he told his family he wanted to work overseas instead of becoming a fisherman in his coastal home province. 


He left with his cousin Nguyen Van Hung -- who also died -- a year ago for France where he worked as a dishwasher.

On October 21, two days before the truck was found, he wrote to his family asking them to get $13,000 to pay to smugglers for his trip to the UK, the last they heard from him.  

He carried nothing but 500 euros ($550) in his wallet and the clothes on his back.

Nguyen Tho Tuan, 26

From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province. 

Tuan's last message to his pregnant wife came two days before the truck was found, asking for $16,000 to make the journey from France to the UK, according to state media. 

He had left his family in early October for Europe. 

"It's so sad that his child, when born, will not be able to see his dad," Tuan's cousin Tran Thi Lien told VNExpress.

Nguyen Van Hung, 33

From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. 

With his sights set on the UK, Hung got a falsified passport last year and took off without telling his parents. 

Travelling via Russia, he snaked his way westwards to France.  

He called his parents on October 21 asking them to get money together for his crossing into the UK, telling them he didn't have any luggage -- just the clothes he was wearing.

Pham Thi Tra My, 26

From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province.

In her final chilling message to her mother My said: "I'm sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn't succeed. Mom and dad I love you so much! I'm dying because I can't breathe."

The note was sent just hours before the bodies were discovered in the refrigerated trailer. 

My left home on October 3, apparently going into debt to fund her trip abroad. 

"Please try to work hard to pay the debt for mummy, my dear," she wrote to her brother Pham Manh Cuong.

Vo Van Linh, 25

From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province. 

Linh had entered Russia in 2016 as a tourist and stayed there for six months before moving on to Germany, with the family fronting more than $14,000 for the journey. 

"He last contacted us on October 19," Vo Van Binh told AFP. 

Le Van Ha, 30

From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province. 

Ha left behind his wife and two children for Europe en route to Britain where he hoped to earn enough money to support his young family. 

His youngest son was born just three months ago, after he left home.

Ha flunked out of police school, then tried rice farming and interior design before deciding to set off. 

The family last heard from him on October 21. "I'm about to board a car to Britain. I'll contact the family when I arrive in England, Dad," he wrote to his father.

Cao Tien Dung, 37

From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province.

The father-of-two and former barber left Vietnam in June 2008 for Europe, settling in Germany where he worked as a delivery man. 

"He worked very hard but could not earn much money," his sister Cao Thi Hao told AFP. 

He went to France on October 20, and last messaged home two days later to say he was going to Britain.  

Cao Huy Thanh, 37

From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. 

Thanh worked in a chicken processing plant in Romania where he moved in March 2019, leaving his four children behind. 

He went to Germany then the UK on October 22 with his friend Cao Tien Dung, who also died, writing home for a final time. 

"He told us to burn incense for our ancestors and pray for his good luck," his wife Thai Thi Giang said.  

Bui Thi Nhung, 19

From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province.

An avid Facebooker, Nhung left home two months before she went missing, with her sights set on Britain. 

Her feed was full of selfies and snaps of bubble tea and noodle soup as she travelled across Europe, until her page went silent two days before the doomed truck was found. 

Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20

From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province.

One of eight kids, Luong had been living in France since 2018 where he worked as a waiter. 

A few weeks before he died he called home to say he was heading to the UK to work. 

A relative posted a desperate plea on Facebook after he went missing: "His characteristics: 1.62 metres, weight about 58 kg. He has a tattoo on his left bicep." 

Bui Phan Thang, 37

From Hong Linh district, Ha Tinh province. 

This was Thang's second trip overseas for work, after a stint in Taiwan as a labourer a few years ago.

The father of three last called home on October 21, telling his family he was stepping out to buy groceries. 

"My husband is a very nice man. He doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink. He has always taken good care of us," his wife Nguyen Anh Hong told AFP. 

Nguyen Huy Hung, 15

From Nghi Xuan district, Ha Tinh province. 

One of the youngest victims, Hung left his rural village for the UK where his parents both live. 

His sister, who lives in South Korea, posted on Facebook that her younger brother was missing and believed to be in the truck.

Nguyen Ngoc Ha, 32

From Bo Trach district, Quang Binh province. 

The fisherman told his family he wanted to earn more money to raise his two kids when he left two months ago, according to state media, and his father had no idea his son was headed to the UK.

Nguyen Dinh Tu, 27

From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province.  

A former army recruit, Tu is believed to have travelled from Germany to Britain where he planned to meet his father-in-law who helped to arrange his trip. 

Tu's Facebook page says he lives in Berlin and features a profile picture of a clean-cut man in a black turtleneck.

Vo Ngoc Nam, 28

From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province. 

Nam worked in Romania for a few months before heading to the UK. 

His family lost touch with him a few days before the truck was found. 

Nguyen Van Nhan, 33

From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province

The day before the truck was discovered, Nhan informed his family that he was about to cross from Germany to the UK in search of better prospects, according to state media. 

He was married with two kids, and his wife had travelled to Japan a month ago for work.