18 die in Skyway crash
16 Others Injured; LTFRB Suspends Don Mariano Transit’s Operations
Manila, Philippines – A passenger bus fell from the top of the Skyway to the ground 9.6 meters below, hitting a passing van in a horrific accident killing 18 and injuring 16 others at dawn yesterday.
Police described the accident as one of the worst in recent memory and that it happened as the country began its long celebration of the Christmas season, adding one more to the list of debilitating calamities that has buffeted the country this year.
Miraculously, the passenger and driver of the delivery van survived the accident. Also surviving with serious injuries was the driver of the bus.
Asleep Or Sleepy?
Many of those killed, police said, apparently were asleep or sleepy on their way to La Pacita, the final destination of the Don Mariano commuter bus that began its ill-fated trip in Novaliches, Quezon City in the early morning hours yesterday.
Many died on the spot but some others expired at various hospitals near the scene of the accident, which is several kilometers from the Magallanes Interchange and some four kilometers to the Bicutan exit.
The bus was facing north when it landed on top of the van. Both were mangled beyond description. The bus was lying on its passenger side, the wheels almost facing the sky.
Rescuers began pulling the bodies several minutes after the accident which awakened the neighborhood although it happened just before the rush hour at 6 a.m.
Many of the victims never reached the hospitals and the bodies were lined up in the street covered with newspapers as police and rescuers worked their way through the mangled steel, broken seats, and shattered windows of the Don Mariano bus.
“This is the worst accident that happened in Metro Manila in the past years that I know,” said Supt. Elizabeth Velasquez, spokesperson of the police’s Highway Patrol Group (HPG).
Quoting reports from their field investigators, Velasquez said the accident occurred while the Don Mariano Bus with plate number UVC-916 was traveling along the southbound lane of the Skyway a few minutes before 6 a.m.
A survivor who gave his name as Pepe Padilla, 54, said the bus suddenly swerved along the Skyway before it lost control and plunged to the West Service Road.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the accident but the highway was wet from rain, said Ivy Vidal, a spokeswoman from Skyway Operations and Maintenance Corp.
Irene Sisperes, a motorist who witnessed the accident, said she was driving with her daughter at 80 kilometers per hour on the way to Lucena when the bus overtook her car. She estimated that the bus was traveling at between 100 kilometers per hour and 110 kph.
She said it was still dark and it was raining when the accident happened.
“After a few meters, I saw the bus fall and I shouted, ‘The bus fell, the bus fell’,” she told DZMM radio, adding there were no other cars nearby.
A CCTV camera showed the bus applied the brakes twice as shown by the tail lights but he already lost control of the vehicle by then.
Sisperes said she saw the damaged railing of the highway and some debris and reported the incident at the toll gate.
Senior Supt. Sheldon Jacaban, HPG deputy director, said a total of 18 people were confirmed dead based on the hospital scouring conducted by his men.
He said 13 of the fatalities were taken but were declared dead at the Taguig-Pateros Hospital while a certain Rolly Borres succumbed to serious injuries at the Parañaque Doctors Hospital.
Jacaban said four other fatalities were traced at the Amigos Funeral Parlor in Bicutan, Taguig City.
“Based on the report, 14 of the fatalities were male while the remaining four were female. We still don’t have their identity,” said Jacaban in an interview yesterday afternoon.
A total of 16 people were confirmed to have been injured, 14 of them male.
Some of them were identified as Ericson Balajadia, Benjie Albunag, Rebecca Tolentino, Ofelia Esnec, Fernando Talagro, Dionisio Tasara, Rolando Valero, Lino Teodorico, Ryan Brecia and Lexter Leona. All of them were taken to the Parañaque Doctors Hospital.
A certain Lolita Rance is currently at the ICU of the South Super Highway Medical Center.
All of the cadavers, he said, were taken to the police’s Southern Police District for autopsy.
Yves Chiapco, special liaison to the office of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Executive Director Roberto Cabrera, said some of the victims they interviewed revealed that the driver of the Don Mariano Bus appeared to be sleepy.
Roused From Nap?
“We were told that when the driver was roused from what appeared to be a nap, he accidentally stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes,” Chiapco told the Manila Bulletin in an interview at the HPG Office at Camp Crame.
This could be the reason, according to Chiapco, the bus rammed on the railings and later fell down on its side.
The driver of the bus was identified as Carmelo Calatcat who is now confined at the Parañaque Doctors Hospital.
Chiapco revealed that the entire fleet of the Don Mariano Bus was suspended pending the result of the investigation.
LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said the gravity of the accident has convinced the agency to place the entire fleet under the mandatory 30-day preventive suspension instead of the few bus units under the same franchise covering the ill-fated bus.
Although the LTFRB has yet to issue its preventive suspension order against Don Mariano Transit, Ginez said he has called up the bus company to verbally order them to temporarily stop from operating. The Don Mariano Transit Corp. has a total of 78 authorized bus units.
“There will be due process at the course of the investigation and formal hearing,” said Chiapco.
Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Isidra Dumlao, traffic investigator from Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), identified four of the 18 fatalities who are all bus passengers as Roger Orquejo, Mary Anne Superio, Roberto Bautista and Arnold Jeminos.
All the fatalities, according to Dumlao, were taken to the Amigos Funeral Homes in Bicutan, Taguig City.
Dumlao, meanwhile, said that two of those injured – the bus driver and the driver of the closed van – were identified as Carmelo Calatcat and Gilbert Montellana.
Calatcat, according to reports, was reportedly in serious condition. Both were taken to the Parañaque Doctors Hospital.
Dumlao said 14 other people who were injured were taken to various hospitals such as the Ospital ng Muntinlupa, Taguig-Pateros District Hospital (TPDH), Southsuper Highway Hospital and Parañaque Medical City.
How It Started
Dumlao said that based on initial investigation, Calatcat was driving the bus – a Don Mariano bus transit with plate number (UVC-916), traversing the Skyway heading southbound at 5:30 a.m. Monday when it reportedly fell on a close van with plate number (ULX-874), Armela Compound, Liway West Service Road, Barangay Marcelo Green, Parañaque City.
Dumlao said that according to survivors, the bus driver was reportedly driving fast. She added that it was also raining at the time.
“According to the survivors, nagpagewang-gewang daw ang bus bago tumama sa railings at tuluyang mahulog mula sa Skyway. Nung mahulog, nadaganan niya ang closed-van na tumatakbo sa West Service Road,” Dumlao said during an interview.
“Mabilis daw ang patakbo ng driver habang tumatakbo ng southwest direction papunta ng Alabang,” she added.
Dumlao said there was no indication that the driver was sleepy while he was driving.
“Aalamin din natin kung nakainum ba siya. Makikita din natin sa resulta ng medical examination kung under influence siya ng droga,” she added.
Dumlao said there were some 32 passengers inside the passenger bus.
She added that the belongings of those who were killed are currently under their custody.
“Iyung names ng ibang namatay at sugatan patuloy pa rin namin inaalam. Nakikipag-coordinate na din kami sa kanilang mga kamag-anak,” Dumlao said.
One Of The Worst Accidents
Dumlao, during the same interview, said that the accident along Skyway is one of the worst traffic accidents to have ever occur in the area.
She said that based on the records of the PNP-HPG, the last major bus accident to occur along Skyway was in 2011.
“Sa record namin, ito na ang pinaka-worst na bus accident na naitala namin,” she said.
History Of Accidents
This was not the first time Don Mariano Transit figured in a road accident.
On July 4, 2012, one of its units was involved in an accident at the EDSA-Ortigas Flyover, injuring eight people.
It also figured in accidents in August, 2011; January, 2011; November, 2010; January, 2010; and October 2009.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Don Mariano Transit Corp. has failed to comply with the required labor inspection to be eligible for the renewal of its franchise to operate.
In a radio interview, Labor spokesman Nicon Fameronag said Don Mariano Transit Corp. has been operating without the necessary Labor Standards and Compliance Certificate (LSCC).
LSCC is a mandatory requirement for bus companies before they could apply for a franchise at the LTFRB.
Fameronag said the LSCC of Don Mariano Transit Corp. expired last July 17. (With reports from Rizal Obanil, Kris Bayos, and Samuel Medenilla)