“SORRY... sorry... sorry,” was all Danilo Niere could say on Sunday morning, July 21, 2019, shortly after nine of his passengers on Friday were laid to rest in a public cemetery in Boljoon town.
Niere told Superbalita Cebu that what happened on July 19 was an accident. He did not intend to harm any of the students and their companions who were on board the mini dump truck he was driving in Barangay Upper Becerril, he said.
Seven students and two adult companions who were on their way to the Poblacion to attend the opening of a district meet were killed when the truck fell on its side.
On Monday, July 22, the Boljoon Police Station will file complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries against Niere.
In an interview at the police station’s detention cell, Niere said he takes responsibility for what happened and he is ready to accept his fate, whatever the court’s decision will be.
At the Boljoon Public Cemetery, some 1,000 family members and relatives of the nine fatalities brought their loved ones to their final resting place amid the wailing of distraught parents, siblings and friends.
The grief was too much to bear for the mothers of two victims who had to be attended to after losing consciousness during the funeral.
Students who survived the accident recalled the horror of seeing the bloodied bodies of their classmates sprawled on the ground, some of them pinned under the truck. The tragedy is still fresh in their memories and they would not forget it, they said.
One of the survivors, 11-year-old Lutchie Mae Rota, said she was still able to call for help when the truck fell on its side. But when she saw her lifeless classmates, she felt helpless at the time and all she could do was cry.
She thanked God for her second life.
Adrian Villanueva, 12, and his mother, Susan, 53, also survived the accident with bruises and wounds.
Adrian was also accompanied by his 20-year-old brother, Alexander, who wanted to watch him compete in the track and field event. Alexander did not make it.
In his homily, Msgr. Ruben Labajo, parish priest of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, comforted the loved ones and friends of the fatalities. He said God did not want the tragedy to happen but the unfortunate event has a message; and in due time, they would understand its meaning and purpose.
Not the first
The tragic accident was not the first road mishap in Upper Becerril.
According to residents of the mountain barangay, the fatal accident on Friday was the fifth road mishap in the area.
Earlier, two motorcycles had fallen off the cliff, while two private cars and a dump truck had swerved off the road on separate occasions.
All these vehicles, like the truck driven by Niere, were making their way to the town proper.
“Fortunately, no one died. Then last Friday’s tragedy happened. The area must be haunted,” Maria del Amor Roma, 76, told SunStar Cebu in Cebuano.
On Thursday night, hours before the Friday morning tragedy, Roma and her neighbors said the dogs in the area were howling loudly.
They claimed that it was their first time to hear the dogs collectively howl, and it took the dogs quite some time to stop.
Howling of dogs is considered an ill omen as it is often associated with bad luck or worse, death.
“Nagduda gyud mi nga basin naay buot ipasabot ato, basin signos na to. Dimalas gyud ni, digrasya gyud unya Biyernes pa gyud nahitabo (We suspected that it might have been a sign. It was tragic, an accident that happened on a Friday which is also a bad omen),” Roma said.