Bus fleet suspended after Skyway accident

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Monday, December 16, 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) suspended on Monday all 78 units of Don Mariano Transport Corporation, operator of the bus that figured in an accident at an elevated Skyway in Taguig City.

At least 18 people (not 22 as earlier reported) were killed in the accident, which occurred around 5:15 a.m. Monday after the Pacita-bound Don Mariano Transit bus with plate number UVC-916 plunged off an elevated highway and fell onto a van passing below. At least 16 people were injured.

[READ: 18 dead as bus falls from Skyway]

TV footage showed a number of bodies strewn around the bus wreckage with police officers nearby. The van was an unrecognizable pile of smashed white metal.

Passenger bus falls off Skyway
MANILA. People gather at the scene where a passenger bus plunged from an elevated highway known as the Skyway Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in Paranaque, southeast of Manila, Philippines. (AP)

Ryan Bresa, a passenger who survived, said the bus may have been traveling too fast, and the driver tried to control the vehicle's swerving before it fell from the highway and toward a section of the West Service Road of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) along Barangay Marcelo Green in Bicutan, Taguig City.

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.

As a consequence, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya has ordered LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez to immediately suspend all 78 units of the Don Mariano Transport Corporation.

Lacierda said that during the 30-day suspension, Abaya asked Ginez to probe the drivers of the bus firm and have them undergo drug tests, adding that the performance record of Don Mariano Transport would also be reviewed.

Abaya also ordered Toll Regulatory Board Executive Director Edmund Reyes to review video footage of the Skyway accident and draw up measures to avoid a repeat of the bus fall from an elevated tollway.

Lacierda said the owner of Don Mariano Transit had indicated she will comply with the directive. He stressed that the government is bound by law to follow due process before imposing harsher sanctions on the bus operator involved in the deadly accident.

"We are bound by law. There are processes involved which we have to follow," he said.

Lacierda also said that MalacaƱang will emphasize to Abaya and Ginez to review the speed limits at major thoroughfares to avoid a repeat of the accident.

He said the tragic bus accident should serve as a reminder to public transport operators and drivers of their duty to practice extraordinary diligence. [Read the related story.] (AP/SDR/Sunnex)

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