Death toll in Cebu bus mishap now 11-A A +A
Friday, January 18, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Last Wednesday’s vehicular accident in Barangay Uling, Naga claimed the lives of five more people, bringing the death toll to 11, police investigators confirmed Thursday.
This, as an official of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) Central Visayas said that the operator of the trailer truck involved in the accident could be liable for allowing the driver to drive the vehicle without the appropriate license.
The accident highlighted the need for a regular inspection of trucks by their owners, and for the installation of warning signs on the Naga-Uling Road, an accident-prone area.
In an interview Thursday, SPO2 Saul Alejandria of the Naga City Police Station said driver Antonieco Omagay lost control of the trailer truck when its brakes malfunctioned.
He was driving downhill in Sitio Gaway-Gaway in Uling when the truck rammed into a passenger bus of Calvo Bus Liner Inc. driven by Jimmy Limoran.
Omagay died on the spot while Limoran and more than 50 of his passengers survived.
But for LTO-Central Visayas Director Raul Aguilos, Omagay’s death does not exempt his employer, WT Construction Inc. (WTCI), from liability.
Aguilos and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-Central Visayas Director Ahmed Cuizon inspected the accident site Thursday morning.
Aguilos said that while the truck driver was initially blamed for the accident, the truck’s operator could also be charged with civil and criminal liabilities.
The officials found out Thursday that Omagay’s license does not allow him to drive trucks, trailers and other articulated vehicles.
Aguilos told Sun.Star Cebu that Omagay’s license is registered under Restriction Code 2 and 3, which only allows Omagay to drive vehicles with a gross weight of 4,000 to 5,000 kilos, such as cars and automobiles.
To drive articulated vehicles, Omagay had to secure a license with a Restriction Code 8, Aguilos added.
He said the police could use this information to file related charges against WTCI for hiring an unqualified driver.
Aguilos also urged truck operators to assess and inspect their units before allowing these to travel.
But in an earlier interview, Ernie Lopez of WTCI told reporters that they regularly inspect their trucks for mechanical defects. He also said that their drivers are qualified to operate their trucks.
As of Thursday night, only 10 of the 11 fatalities have been identified.
The fatalities are Omagay, Lyle Firmeza, 15; Almira Pamandanan, 36; and Cayetana Fernandez of Barangay Don Andres Soriano in Toledo City; Melvin Costanilla of Toledo City; Emmanuel Gaudise, 28, of Barangay Talavera in Toledo City; Lilita Etag, 51, of Balamban town; James Carpentero of Barangay Lutopan; Julie and Dionny Pajamutan of Barangay Uling, Naga City.
The 11th fatality was found by police only Thursday afternoon after the management of St. Francis Funeral Homes in Toledo City called them up.
After the inspection, Aguilos asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to install visible road signs in the Naga-Uling Road to warn motorists of steep slopes and blind curves.
Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong shared Aguilos’ observation.
Chiong told Sun.Star Cebu that some parts of the Naga-Uling Road are known to be accident-prone as most road signs are not reflectorized.
He said last Wednesday’s accident was not the first to occur there.
Chiong assured the families of the two Naga City residents who were killed in the accident to seek medical and burial assistance from his office.
The Provincial Government and the office of Representative Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district) also assured the victims of financial and burial assistance.
Congressman Garcia said his office will cover all the expenses of the victims that will not be covered by Capitol and WTCI.
“I’ve instructed my staff to take care of all expenses not covered by those providing aid,” he said.
The congressman’s office will also shoulder the funeral expenses of the four fatalities who were brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.
Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) acting department head Evelyn Senajon said the victims will get P3,000 from Capitol. If the amount is not enough, they will seek the congressman’s help, she said.
The families of the victims who died will get P5,000, a sack of rice and canned goods.
As of Thursday, 25 victims of the accident underwent CT scans at the Cebu Doctor’s Hospital.
Senajon said the bill amounting to P70,000 may be shouldered by WTCI.
As for the burial expenses, she said these will be taken care of by Calvo Bus Liners.
As the investigation on the accident continues, relatives of those who died lamented the sudden death of their loved ones.
In a radio dyLA report on Thursday, relatives of Lyle Firmeza said the boy died on his 15th birthday.
Just hours before the accident, Firmeza was at the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City to offer prayers on his birthday. He was accompanied by his mother Mary Aileen.
Firmeza, a devotee of the Santo Niño, was one of the five bus passengers who died on the spot. His mother suffered minor injuries.
Despite their loss, Firmeza’s uncle Gail prefers to believe that God has other plans for his nephew. (JKV/FMG of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 18, 2013.