SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro: Nineteen people were killed and 21 others were injured when the bus they were riding lost control and plunged into a ravine in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro late Tuesday.
Arcris Canillo, Sablayan municipal disaster risk reduction officer, said the Dimple Star Transport bus, with plate number TYU-708, was approaching Patrick Bridge on its way to Manila from San Jose town, and had 40 passengers.
“The road was sloping down. Before the bridge is a curve. One of the passengers who survived said the bus lost its brakes, that’s why it veered toward the rails before plunging into the ravine,” he said.
Police photos showed rescue workers clambering down the cliff to reach the bus, which lay on its side among trees and grass about 15 meters (49 feet) below the road.
Sablayan town is about 195 kilometers (121 miles) south of Manila.
Among the dead were the bus driver, Arno Panganiban, and conductor Erwin Estipona Ebuenga.
Canillo identified the other fatalities as Leaflor de Pedro Borlado, Cely Pama, Marciano Ramos, Rudy Bacani, Teresita Tupagan, Elizabeth de la Cruz, Verginia Ramos, Lolita Bayle, Guilbert Vanguardia Jr., Robert Dioso, Gloria Gabuco, Anselma Gomez, Geraldine Tarcena, Judith Gabuco, Rodolfo Santiago, Nellie Alvaro and Percival Flores.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board immediately suspended 10 buses of Dimple Star Transport bus for 30 days.
The plate numbers of suspended buses traveling from San Jose to Mamburao via Abra de Ilog are: TYU-708, TYU-909, TYU-807, TYU-707, TYU-789, TYZ-800, TYZ-801, TYZ-700, TYZ-881 and PTO 367.
Earlier on Wednesday, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada inspected the terminals of the bus operator to ensure the safety of passengers. Inspectors saw two buses with worn-out tires.
The families of the victims will be given financial assistance on Thursday, upon presentation of birth or marriage certificates and identification cards, authorities said.
Road accidents are common in the Philippines, where inadequately maintained buses and poorly trained drivers form the backbone of land transport options.
In 2010, 41 people died, including five foreigners, when a packed bus plunged into a deep ravine in the northern Philippines.
Another 31 people perished in a bus crash in the country’s north in April last year while 20 were killed when two buses collided in the north in December.
Sen. Grace Poe took aim at the nation’s regulation system, saying “vehicles that are not roadworthy or even those we label as rolling coffins are still allowed to ply the roads with near impunity.”
Poe renewed her call for the immediate approval of Senate Bill 1637 establishing the National Transport Safety Board to improve transport safety. The bill is in the advanced period of interpellations in the Senate and is up for second reading.
NIKKI DE LOS REYES AND AFP