ZAMBOANGA CITY: Nine passengers were killed while three others were injured when a speeding Toyota Hi-Ace passenger van coming from Davao City hit a tree in Matalam, North Cotabato on Satur- day morning, a police official said.
Chief Inspector Elias Colonia, Matalam town police chief, disclosed that the incident happened at 2:50 a.m. in Barangay West Patadon, along portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.
“The van was speeding when it hit a tree at a roadside, probably the driver fell asleep,” Colonia said.
It was considered the worst highway vehicular accident in North Cotabato in recent years, he emphasized.
The van with license plate LHM-995 left Davao City at past 12 midnight and was heading to North Cotabato.
Four of the passengers who died were identified as Nor Asan Canda, Lyle Rudolf Echevarria Octaviano, Juliet Debalusan, and Haydee Maaya.
Van conductor Jebon Carpio Policarpio, 26, of Midsayap, North Cotabato, said their vehicle was the first passenger van to leave Davao City for Cotabato City and driven by Brendo Singco.
“Singco fell asleep and was awakened by passengers yelling and shouting when we ran out of line shortly before the van hit a mahogany tree,” Policarpio said.
Colonia said Singco had fled and is being hunted down by authorities.
In August, a speeding 10-wheeler truck also rammed at least eight vehicles while traversing the Kidapawan-Matalam highway and killed a tricycle driver and injured 32 others.
As this developed, due to the rampant vehicular accident in North Cotabato, the Kidapawan City Council and the Makilala City Council passed a speed limit ordinance along the Cotabato-Davao highway.
Makilala Vice Mayor Ricky Cua said the increase in the number of road accidents that happened from January to August this year has prompted them to pass Ordinance Number 294-2015.
Based on the ordinance, the speed limit of all motor vehicles that would enter the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality of Makilala would be 60 kilometers per hour; in Poblacion areas, 40 kilometers per hour; and in all school zones, 20 kilometers per hour.
Records from the Traffic Division of the Makilala PNP showed that in 2015, there were 100 road accidents that occurred along the Makilala highway from January until August this year, which is an increase of at least 40 percent from 2014.
In Kidapawan City, speed limits would also be regulated, according to City councilor Jiv-Jiv Bombeo, chair of the Committee on Transportation.
Bombeo said they are now studying the amendments to the ordinance passed in 1996 that sets speed limits for all motor vehicles plying the national highway in Kidapawan City.