MANILA – At least 19 passengers were killed and more than a dozen injured when a commuter bus crashed into a ravine in Occidental Mindoro on Tuesday evening, police said.
The bus hit a bridge railing and crashed into a 15-meter (50-feet) deep cliff a police report sent to Provincial Director Romy Estepa in Camp Winston Sibley Ebersole in San Jose town said Wednesday.
Earlier radio reports quoted probers saying the driver had apparently lost control of the vehicle while traversing the Patrick Bridge.
The Dimple Star Bus with Plate Number TYU 708 was driven by a certain Arno Panganiban, who was among those dead on the spot along with the bus conductor, said the report by Police Chief Insp. Jeny Popa Magan.
Initial investigation showed the bus was travelling northward from San Jose town to Abra De Ilog, and, “upon reaching the downward portion of the highway, near a bridge (Patrick Bridge), the vehicle allegedly lost control, as a result it fell down into a cliff (around 15 to 20 meters).”
Personnel from the Sablayan town MPS, the Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion, and other rescue and disaster units provided emergency response, added the police report.
The Philippines is notorious for its lax regulation on public transportation and poorly maintained roads. Reacting to the road crash, the chair of the Senate Public Services committee, Grace Poe, expressed “our deepest sympathies to the family of the Mindoro bus crash victims” but added that “we are enraged with the loss of lives due to events that could have been prevented.”
She cited 2014 Philippine Statistics Authority data that accidents, mostly vehicular, have claimed the lives of 43,853 Filipinos.
“Sadly, the list of tragic road accidents and their casualties continue to increase because vehicles that are not roadworthy or even those we label as rolling coffins are still allowed to ply the roads with near impunity.”
Poe said her office “gathered reports that there were previous accidents involving Dimple Star bus, which also resulted in fatalities.
“This recent incident reminded us once again about how public transportation in the country can be so dangerous.”
Poe has a pending bill calling for the creation of a National Transportation Safety Board to be solely responsible for looking into transportation-related recurring accidents and determining their causes. This will cover land, sea, air, including railways and pipeline systems.
According to Poe, “We should also see to it that the billions of pesos in car registration fees which is earmarked for road safety, such as railings and lights, end up in the streets installed, and not in private pockets.”
The missing link in these accident prevention measures is the NTSB, Poe stressed. “There is a jumble of transport agencies, but there is no “go-to agency” that will be able to unravel and explain major transportation accidents. There is a general pattern to be perceived in each of the accidents, and unless we fail to piece them together, they will occur. ” – Reports from Reuters, Mon Gualvez