Bus plunges off Skyway, lands on van

CARNAGE. Rescue workers extract the bodies of still unidentified persons from the wrecked bus. Photo by EPA/Francis Malasig

CARNAGE. Rescue workers extract the bodies of still unidentified persons from the wrecked bus.

Photo by EPA/Francis Malasig

MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – At least 18 people are dead after a bus and a van figured in an accident along the Metro Manila Skyway early Monday, December 16.

A Don Mariano Transit bus fell off the southbound lane of the elevated highway early Monday and fell on top of a van plying the West Service Road of the South Luzon Expressway below, in an area part of Parañaque City, initial police reports said.

The bus with plate number UVC 916 was plying the Novaliches-Pacita Complex route when it fell off the elevated highway at past 5 am, radio dzMM reported.

The police's Highway Patrol Group said there were 18 confirmed fatalities, down from an earlier figure of 22. Sixteen people, meanwhile, were injured.

"It (the death toll) could go even higher," as some of the injured are in serious condition, traffic investigator Jose Abuyog told Agence France-Presse, adding that the cause of the accident was still being determined.

The bus driver, who survived, will undergo tests and questioning, said Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)chairman Winston Ginez.

The injured victims have been brought to a hospital in the area, authorities said.

Because of the accident the service road has been closed off to vehicular traffic.

The victims have yet to be identified by authorities.

The HPG, citing a survivor's account, said the cause of the accident was overspeeding. The driver was said to have lost control of the bus, which led to it making a zig-zag path. It then hit the railings and fell off the elevated highway.

The LTFRB later suspended the bus company's 78 units from operating today, pending an investigation into the matter.

The company's drivers will also need to undergo safety and road worthiness tests.

Possible improvements

In a media briefing in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) ordered an investigation into the deadly road accident "and also to review the performance of Don Mariano."

Back in July 2012, a Don Mariano bus also figured in an accident at the EDSA-Ortigas flyover when it slammed on the safety railings. Six people were hurt in the incident.

The Palace said DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya also ordered TRB (Toll Regulatory Board) Executive Director Edmund Reyes to "review the tapes and to talk to Skyway," in order to study what type of "infrastructure improvements we can do to avoid another incident of a bus falling from an elevated tollway."

Lacierda added the speed limit may also be revisted, as well as the requirements of agencies in assessing the competency of drivers.

While the probe on the incident is still ongoing, Lacierda gave assurances the driver will automatically face charges.

"Even if he scratches his head, he will definitely have a case against him. His case is homicide -- reckless imprudence resulting to homicide. That's the case. The court will really file the cases because that's the extent of the liability... in this case, its multiple homicide," he said. – With reports from the Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com