Bus line waits for safety test-A A +A
Monday, October 29, 2012
CEBU CITY – The number of people injured in a bus accident involving a Jegans Bus Liner in Barangay Don Andres Soriano, Toledo City, Cebu has risen to 42, police said.
All of the company’s buses will be inspected by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Central Visayas, which will make sure the vehicles are roadworthy.
It was not the first time a bus had an accident in the area, and the latest accident has prompted calls to add more warning signs there.
Seven persons, including a 16-year-old girl, died in last Saturday night’s accident. At least 37 other passengers remain confined in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City. Four are in critical condition.
Those who died were identified as Jose Baraquil, 29; Thelma Sipalay, 24; Virgilio Cañabano, 54; Cherry Ann Nillama, 16; Melinda Limbang, 48; Irineo Umba, 59; and Felidelfa Baratbate, 59. They live either in Toledo City or Pinamungajan town.
Allan Pastidio, 40, who drove the bus (GXD-545), surrendered to the Aloguinsan Police Station after receiving medical care. He was worried about being mugged by the victims’ angry families.
The accident left him with a scrape on his back.
Superintendent Henry Biñas, the town’s police chief, told reporters they will file a complaint for reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and physical injuries with damage to property against Pastidio.
Biñas said the 49-seater bus en route to the southwestern town of Pinamungajan was not overloaded and there was no sign of alcohol intake in the driver.
Police are now getting testimonies of the survivors against the driver, including allegations that Pastidio was speeding and racing with another vehicle while still in Minglanilla town.
They will also check the Land Transportation Office (LTO) Central Visayas records to see if he was previously involved in other accidents.
The area, though well-lighted, needs more warning signs, considering it is accident-prone.
“But in the end, it’s still up to the drivers, who will take precautions and check their vehicles before hitting the road,” Biñas said.
The accident happened past 7 p.m. Saturday in Sitio Uncrona, after the brakes malfunctioned while the bus was going downhill.
As its wheels screeched and the bus swerved on a blind curve, it fell on its right side, skidded and smashed into a concrete wall and steel gate of a house.
The crash disrupted a basketball game in the area. Spectators and residents immediately tried to pull out the bodies of the blood-soaked passengers.
The victims were first taken to the Carmen Copper Corp. Hospital in Barangay Don Andres Soriano and Toledo District Hospital in Barangay Poblacion. They were transferred later to VSMMC, a government-run facility in Cebu City.
Pastidio, in an interview, denied he was negligent and described the event as “purely accidental”.
“Una ni nako nga na-involve ug aksidente. Nangayo gyud ko ug pasaylo sa mga pamilya sa akong pasahero. Wa gyud nako tuyua (This is my first accident. I apologize to the passengers and their families. I really did not mean for that to happen),” he said.
Pastidio recalled he noticed the brakes failed when they were going downhill. Before the accident, he said, he checked the bus properly and it was their last trip for the day.
Pastidio has been working for the bus company owned by former congressman Antonio Yapha since last April. He said he didn’t jump outside the bus and just closed his eyes before the impact.
“Wa nako biyai akong mga pasahero. Sa ma-swertehan lang namo (I never abandoned the passengers),” he said.
The bus was pulled out at 2 p.m. Sunday with the help of Corominas Bros. and was on its way to Jegan’s garage in Cebu City.
Also on Sunday, former congressman Yapha and his wife visited the victims in VSMMC.
Yapha promised to cover all the expenses for the patients in the hospital and to shoulder the burial expenses of the seven passengers who were killed.
“Ako’y mobayad sa tanang galastohan sa hospital (I will pay all the hospital expenses),” Dr. Yapha told Sun.Star.
A similar offer was made by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and her brother Representative Pablo John Garcia, who visited the survivors in VSMMC around 11 a.m., shortly after Yapha’s visit.
Governor Garcia instructed the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) personnel to immediately help the confined survivors.
Wilson Ramos, PSWDO administrative officer, said they provided food and medical assistance to the patients. The families of those who died will get P5,000 as financial aid.
The Integrated Provincial Health Office chief, Dr. Cristina Giango, said there are 37 survivors confined at the VSMMC.
Another passenger died on Sunday due to severe head injuries and four who are in critical condition remained in the intensive care unit.
Felidelfa Baratbate, 59, from Poblacion, Pinamungajan died before noon. She suffered a fracture in her right arm and a more serious head injury.
The Garcia siblings met with her family and handed an amount to the eldest daughter, Sinen Cabonella. They promised the family burial assistance.
Congressman Garcia urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to continue what they are doing to make the place safer.
After several accidents happened in the area, he said, DPWH has placed warning signs and railings so that the place will be safer for travelers.
Toledo City is part of the third district, which Garcia represents in the House of Representatives. He will run for governor next year, while the governor will seek the third district’s congressional seat.
As a result of the accident, the LTO plans to conduct drug test on the bus company’s drivers as well as a seminar on traffic rules and travel safety.
In the past years, if a unit of a bus company is involved in a major accident, the entire fleet of that company was then suspended by the LTFRB.
But under the new procedures, said LTFRB Central Visayas Director Ahmed Cuizon, only the units within the same franchise will be suspended for 30 days.
If a franchise has three units, then only the operations of these three units will be suspended, Cuizon said. This is intended to make sure that passengers who use that route will continue to have a means of transportation.
Cuizon added he will check on reports that the bus was supposed to ply the Cebu City-Barili-Aloguinsan route and not the Cebu City-Toledo City-Pinamungajan route, where the accident happened.
He warned that insurance companies will not give the benefits due to passengers who are victims of a road accident, if the vehicle in question operated outside its line.
It was only last October 25, during the Regional Management Council (RMC) meeting, that Cuizon reminded all operators to secure a special permit from LTFRB if they want to temporary ply outside their approved line.
LTO Central Visayas Director Raul Aguilos said that his agency will wait for the signal from LTFRB on conducting the roadworthiness test, drug tests and drivers’ seminar.
“We will also confiscate the license plates of all its units when LTFRB orders the suspension of its operations. At the moment, the Philippine National Police is conducting the investigation of the accident to determine the case and identify the persons liable and file the appropriate criminal and civil charges against them,” Aguilos said. (With Flornisa M. Gitgano and Elias O. Baquero of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 29, 2012.