MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – At least 19 people died and 21 others were injured after a passenger bus fell off a bridge in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro on Tuesday evening, March 20.
The Dimple Star bus with plate number TYU 708 fell off Patrick Bridge, located at the boundary of barangays (villages) Batongbuhay and San Agustin, Sablayan’s Disaster Operation Center said in a Facebook post.
The Disaster Operation Center identified some of the victims of the bus crash:
It also identified two hospitals accommodating the victims: Occidental Mindoro Provincial Hospital, and San Sebastian District Hospital.
Occidental Mindoro Provincial Health Officer Ner Agoncillo said only 15 out of the 19 people who died have been identified as of this posting.
Meanwhile, a total of 21 people were injured due to the incident; 17 of the victims were admitted to hospitals, while 4 were outpatients.
Regional police spokeswoman Imelda Tolentino said the bus was heading to Manila when it skidded off a mountain road.
Rescue workers were pulling the dead and injured from the vehicle, which landed at the bottom of a wooded ravine, she added.
“Police are investigating why the driver lost control – whether there was mechanical trouble or the driver fell asleep,” Tolentino told Agence France-Presse.
Police photos showed rescue workers clambering down the cliff to reach the bus, which lay on its side amongst trees and grass about 15 meters below the road.
Road accidents are common in the Philippines, where poorly maintained buses and poorly-trained drivers form the backbone of land transport options.
In 2010, 41 people died, including 5 foreigners, when a packed bus plunged into a deep ravine in the northern Philippines. Another 31 people perished in bus crash in the country’s north in April 2017.
Public transport regulators said Wednesday, March 21, they may suspend the franchise of the operator of the bus involved in the most recent disaster.
‘Go-to agency needed’
In a statement on Wednesday, Senator Grace Poe – chair of the Senate committee on public services – condoled with the families of the victims, adding that she is “enraged with the loss of lives due to events that could have been prevented.”
Citing the Philippine Statistics Authority, Poe said that in 2014, “accidents” which are 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,” she noted.
Poe said that based on reports, there had been previous accidents already involving Dimple Star buses which also resulted in fatalities.
The senator then lamented that the country has no “go-to agency” for “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. This can be done by [a National Transportation Safety Board] which will be the transportation safety ombudsman who can raise the alarm on accidents waiting to happen,” she said, referring to her proposed bill, the National Transportation Safety Board Act of 2016. – with reports from Agence France-Presse and Aika Rey/Rappler.com