by Aaron B. Recuenco and Nel B. Andrade, and Ali Vicoy
The death toll in the tourist bus accident in Tanay, Rizal has risen to 15 after an 18-year-old female casualty died at the Amang Rodriguez Hospital Tuesday morning, February 21.
Tanay Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office administrative officer Bong Bati said the Panda Couach tourist bus was carrying 62 passengers, most of which are students from Bestlink College of Novaliches, ABS-CBN News reported.
The tourist bus transporting college students to a camping site in Rizal crashed into a concrete electric post yesterday morning, killing 10 of its passengers on the spot, while 4 others died enroute to the hospital.
The accident took place at 8:40 a.m. along Sampaloc Road at the Magnetic Hill in Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay town, according to Supt. Chitadel Gaorian, Police Regional Office 4-A spokesman.
The impact of the crash destroyed the front portion, tore the roof of the bus, and dislocated the seats, some of which were thrown out of the vehicle.
Ten of the victims, four of them women, died on the spot while four others died while getting hospital treatment, including the unnamed substitute driver. Some of the bodies were found outside of the vehicle.
The injured passengers were taken to nearby hospitals, including Juliane Lacordia, the 37-year-old driver who is in critical condition at the Amang Rodriguez Hospital in Tanay.
Most of the fatalities were seated in the left side of the bus which bore the brunt of the crash.
In an interview with dzMM, Johna Martires, the bus representative, said the company had already informed their insurance firm to take care of the needs of the victims.
Martires said the driver started working with the bus firm three months ago and had not submitted results of his drug test since his hiring.
Dr. Ronnie Noo, the Rizal hospital chief, said they received 28 passengers, three of whom died of severe head injuries.
“We also transferred three passengers to a tertiary hospital,” Noo said.
Police identified some of the fatalities as Jeid Cabino, Jonah Cereno, Arneline Galauran, Robert Kenneth Pepito, Princess Nina Seutonis, and Lovely Siringan.
The ill-fated vehicle is one of nine buses of Panda Coach Tourist and Transpo, Inc. rented by the Bestlink College of the Philippines for a camping trip at the Sacramento Valley resort in Tanay.
The bus, with more than 50 students on board, left the school campus on Quirino Highway, Barangay Sta. Monica, Novaliches, Quezon City at 6 a.m. It passed through Cogeo, Antipolo, Marikina-Infanta Highway before turning to Sampaloc Road in Tanay.
One of the passengers told police he noticed a foul smell of what looked like a burning tire before the accident.
The bus was negotiating a steep descent when it apparently lost its brake and slammed into the post.
“Mabilis daw talaga ang takbo ng bus at sa palagay ng mga biktima ay nawalan na nga ng preno bago ito bumangga (The victims said the bus, which was running at high speed, appently lost its break before it crashed into the electric post),” Carlos Inofre II, campsite reservations officer at Sacramento Valley Resort, told Manila Bulletin.
The strong impact wrecked the front portion of the tourist bus.
Bong Bati, training and administrative officer of the disaster management unit of Tanay town, said all the fatalities were taken to the San Isidro Funeral Homes in the town.
The other eight buses arrived safely at the camping site, Sacramento Adventure Camp, according to an unnamed school official.
At the Sacramento Valley, the mood in the camp site was gloomy and quiet, according to Inofre who later accompanied some of the school’s personnel to Rizal Provincial Hospital in Morong to check on the conditions of the victims.
Majority of the 21 victims taken to the Rizal Provincial Hospital have already been visited by their respective relatives.
FIELD TRIP MORATORIUM
Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, a senior member of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, asked yesterday the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to impose a moratorium on educational tours for students following the tragedy.
Castelo said school authorities should also investigate complaints by parents against exorbitant fees imposed on students for educational field trips.
“Reports reaching us show that schools make a killing out of this scheming practic e of excursions in the guise of educational tours,” he said.
He recalled that a similar field trip tragedy resulted in the death of seven young students of the Bulacan State University, who drowned in the Madlum River in San Miguel town in 2014. (With a report from Ben R. Rosario and MB Online)
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