FIVE persons died after the car they were riding hit a prime mover loaded with cement in the South Road Properties (SRP) in Cebu City before 4 a.m. yesterday.
Rustico “Rocky” Bas, 48, was driving four people home to Talisay City when the accident happened in Barangay Mambaling. Bas, a seaman who was on vacation, had reportedly invited the group to have dinner in his house the night before.
The car Bas was driving, a Hyundai sedan, crossed the center island of the road, went into the opposite lane and collided with the truck, according to an initial investigation by the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) office.
The traffic group received the alarm at 3:44 a.m.
Danilo Cojo, 47, told traffic investigators that while he was driving the prime mover, he saw the car swerving to its left. But he didn’t expect it would cross to his lane.
After the collision, the truck dragged the car some 92 meters.
“Kusog gyud kaayo ang impact sa bangga (The impact was tremendous),” Citom Operations Chief Jonathan Tumulak said.
Apart from Bas, the others who died in the accident were identified as Alma Basalo, 45; Gwendolyn Basalo, 49; Rosette Capala, 44; and Owen Juinio, 39. They all lived in Barangay Cansojong, Talisay City.
During their inspection, traffic investigators found no speed mark, which suggested that the car’s driver did not hit the brakes right before the crash.
The prime mover was carrying 700 sacks of cement and was on its way to Cebu City.
Cojo, according to Tumulak, said the truck was moving at 60 to 70 kilometers per hour (kph).
After several accidents in the SRP, Mayor Michael Rama has instructed Citom to reduce the speed limit in the area from 60 to 40 kph.
Cojo is detained in the Parian Police Station but his companion was released.
He told Sun.Star Cebu that he had previously run over two dogs—one in Davao del Norte in the 1990s and the other in Minglanilla last year-while driving a truck.
He has lost track of the number of frogs he has hit on the road. “Makadungog gani ko nga mangabuto sila sa dan (I heard those frogs explode on the street),” said Cojo.
But after more than 20 years as a driver, Cojo said, he has never hit any car or human being.
At past 3 a.m. yesterday, he recalled, he noticed a car zigzagging on its way to Talisay City. He and his helper were on their way to Cebu City’s Pier 3 to deliver 700 sacks of cement from a plant in Naga City.
There were few cars on their side of the road, he said, but he slowed down when he saw the other car.
Cojo said it never crossed his mind that the other car would leap over the island and hit the truck he was driving.
After Bas’s car hit the truck’s front, Cojo said, he stepped on the brake.
The truck, however, dragged the car for more than 90 meters before it finally stopped.
Cojo said the truck was in good condition when he and his companion left Naga past 2 a.m. He denied he was driving drunk.
He also requested his manager to settle with the victims’ families because he is the only one working to feed his wife and three children.
“Pasayloon lang ta ko (I hope they forgive me),” he said. “Wa man to gituyo (It was an accident).”
Alma and Gwendolyn Basalo, together with Bas, were declared dead on the spot. Juinio was declared dead on arrival in the Vicente Sotto Medical Center.
Capala, a public school teacher in Talisay, was still moving when the responding team arrived, but she didn’t make it to the Cebu
City Medical Center.
Her sister, Carmel Capala, said that Bas had invited them for dinner in his house the night before. Carmel also said they had had a bit to drink except for her sister, Rosette, who never touched alcohol.
Carmel said she left Bas’s house alone around 1 a.m. and had no idea what had happened to the others, until she heard the news at 7 a.m.
She and other relatives of the victims asked the authorities to find out exactly what happened. (With Rolando Balondo Jr. and Larissa Cayobit, NSU AB Comm. Interns)