CARRANGLAN, Nueva Ecija: Initial police reports showed that the Leomarick minibus that fell down a 100-foot ravine in Capintalan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija Tuesday morning was not roadworthy, but the La Union-based company insisted on dispatching it.
The vehicle’s official sitting capacity was only 45, but the ill-fated mini-bus reportedly listed at least 77 passengers. Some passengers were cramped inside, others stood gripping their baggage, and male passengers sat on top of the bus.
Bound for Candon, Ilocos Sur, the bus left its Cauayan, Isabela station early Tuesday morning, apparently without the routine checking of tires on top of other pre-travel inspections.
It would pass along the Lupao, Nueva Ecija-Pangasinan Road on the way to La Union and Ilocos Sur. At around 11 a.m. while negotiating the winding and steep stretch 12 kilometers after passing Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, tragedy happened.
The bus’ right front tire burst and caused the driver, Rolando Mangawa, to panic and lose control of the wheel. He shouted: “The tire exploded! Can’t control the brake!”
Sensing imminent danger, those sitting on the top jumped. The head of one of the passengers hit a rock; he died instantly.
The minibus dived into an almost vertical cliff, twice hitting large rocks and causing the steel top to fly with those sitting on it. It settled at an estimated depth of 110 feet from the highway level.
It was the seventh road accident in that treacherous portion of the Nueva Ecija highway in less than two years, according to the Nueva Ecija Highway Patrol Group.
On July 12, 2016, a bus hit the concrete barrier at the same spot, leaving five dead and 30 wounded.