MANILA (Updated) -- The death toll from a bus crash in Tanay, Rizal has risen to 15 and it could climb further as many of the nearly 50 others who were hurt in the accident are in serious condition, officials said Tuesday.
Most of the dead and injured were college students on the way to a camping trip on Monday, February 20, when the brakes on their chartered bus apparently failed on a steep downhill road in Sitio Bayukan, Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal. The out-of-control bus then smashed into an electric post, shearing off most of its roof.
Berlito Bati Jr., a disaster-response officer in Tanay, said the dead included the driver and a professor.
He said the latest victim died late Monday, February 20. There were 62 people on board, although bus manifest listed only 58, Bati said.
Tanay Police Chief Superintendent Christopher Dela Pena said 13 of the 15 fatalities are students.
The fatalities were identified as:
1. Gerry Bernandino
2. Jeid Cabino
3. Elmer Cabrera
4. Jonahfay Cerezo
5. John Michael Dagondon
6. Arneline Galauram
7. Eman Gel Garinto
8. Charlie Magdaong
9. Robert Kenneth Pepito
10. Hasmin Samauna
11. Princess Nina Sentonis
12. Lovely Siringan
13. Jemerson Mesicula
14. Mark Dave Baday
15. Julian Lacorda Jr., bus driver
The impact of the crash was so strong it ripped off a large chunk of the roof of the bus and scattered the victims' belongings, including a stuffed toy and shoes.
The students, mostly taking computer courses at Bestlink College of the Philippines, were less than 30 minutes from their destination when the crash occurred, said Bati. They were on their way to a medical and survival training for their National Service Training Program (NSTP) subject in a resort in Rizal.
Some of the survivors said they smelled burning rubber before the brakes of the bus apparently failed. Some students screamed in panic as the bus went out of control.
Bobby Santos, one of the survivors, said their travel went well until the driver shouted that the brakes are not working.
“Umalingasaw nalang (‘yung amoy) parang may nasusunog, yun ata ‘yung brake namin, sumigaw na yung driver na wala na kaming preno tapos ‘yun napo nag-panic na lahat (We smelled burning rubber, and then the driver shouted that he lost control of the bus. Everybody panicked),” he said.
Alfie Ugdol, a resident in the area who witnessed the incident, said the bus hit several road barriers before it crashed into the electric post.
“Galing doon sa itaas. Sobrang bilis talaga, parang wala na talagang preno (The bus came from uphill. It was running so fast, as if it lost its brakes),” he said.
Dela Pena said investigation is ongoing, adding they are interviewing witnesses to get the whole picture.
“As of now, kinukuha po natin ‘yung statement ng mga witness, ‘yung nakatalon po. ‘Yun po ang mga prine-prepare nating mga dokumento (We are getting statements from witnesses and the survivors),” he said.
The school administration, meanwhile, denied the claims of the parents of the students that they were forced to join the excursion, or else they will not graduate.
“We have a letter to the parents kung gusto nila sumama. If not, up to them. Walang force na nangyari,” said Dr. Charlie Cariño, the school’s vice president for Academics.
But Sister Nina Basquinez, secretary to the president of Bestlink College of the Philippines, said the training is among the requirements for the students to pass the NSTP.
She said those who will not attend the training will get an incomplete grade.
The parents said they signed a waiver indicating that they are allowing their children to join the training and that the school will not have any liability in any untoward incident.
But the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) said the school will remain responsible to all its events despite having the waiver, as it is the school's obligation to assure the students safety.
"Kahit ipapirma mo iyan sa mga estudyante, mga magulang kahit po puwersahin, wala pong bisa iyan dahil ang importante po, dapat nagbigay ng due diligence ang eskwehan para sa kapakanan, kaligtasan ng kanilang mga estudyante (Whether you require the students or parents to sign, the waiver has no basis, because what's important is for the school to give due diligence for the safety of the students)," said Engineer Ronaldo Liveta of Ched.
On Tuesday morning, a priest blessed the bus and the site of the accident and led relatives of the dead in prayers.
The bus was one of several vehicles transporting hundreds of college students to a camping resort when the accident happened in Tanay, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Manila. (With AP/SunStar Philippines)
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