Bus plunge kills 14, hurts 31 in Mt. Province

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Friday, February 7, 2014

BAGUIO CITY (Updated) – A bus ferrying 45 passengers veered off a mountain road in the northern Philippines and fell into a 500-meter (1,600-foot) deep ravine Friday morning, killing at least 14 people, officials said.

The accident happened around 7:20 a.m. Friday along Halsema Highway at the vicinity of Sitio Pagang, Barangay Talubin, Bontoc town in Mountain Province.

Mountain Province Police Provincial Director Oliver Enmodias told reporters Friday that the bus with plate number TXT 872 fell off a cliff resulting in the death of 14 passengers.

Police said the fatalities include TV and film comedian Arvin “Tado” Jimenez, Canadian Alex Loring, Dutch Adriana Van Deven, Marcial Baranda, Andrew David Sicam, Natividad Ngawa, Gerald Baja, Ana dela Cruz, Giovani Bam Murillo, Redentor De Lara, Leah Reyes, Emily Gentalian, Katrina Gozos, and Jonathan Patolot.

Thirty one other passengers were injured and rushed to the nearby Bontoc General Hospital, Senior Superintendent Enmodias said.

Among those injured are Alexander Longadey; Dutch national Annenmik Veerwege; Aloy Atin; James Papsao; Carina Havier; Basilan Miluardo Baranhuat; Abegail Sikam; Edgar Ramon; Robert Conrado; Natty Bang-i; Kristina De Leon; Christian Cavardo; Bernard Burnhard; Camille Osorio; Melchor Suagen; Teresita Sawad; Silvestre Dawey; Agung Sikam; Jerymiah Agnapan; Winslaw Cariño; Michell Legrito; Dun Chavez; Jason Melchor; Charlie Santamaria; Peng Cordove; Olivia Aglipay; Estrella Embede; Demetria Danilo; Christian Sibrevilla and a certain Codiamat and Ammik.

Department of Transportation and Communication regional director Celina Claver said based on the plate number of the bus, it is an inter-regional bus line issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Central Office with case number 2007-0407 and a franchise route of Manila via Bontoc to Banaue.

Claver said the Florida bus line will be slapped with an immediate suspension order regardless of the result of investigation by police.

The Cordillera transportation director, who heads both the Land Transportation Office and the LTFRB here, said the bus was registered February 2013 and up for renewal this month.

As of Friday afternoon, Claver disclosed the initial cause of the accident was mechanical error due to failure of brakes based on the investigation from the Bontoc police.

“The plate number was illegally transferred from the previous motor vehicle,” she also revealed.

“The bus franchise was initially granted to Cable Tours who used to ply the Manila-Bontoc route but only 10 slots were filled up of the 15 granted to them,” the transportation official said.

Claver said the franchise was “bought last year by Partas Bus Line and it is their bus where the plate number was illegally attached to.”

LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez told Claver the agency will immediately conduct a deeper probe on the franchise irregularities which will be deliberated by board members, adding it will immediately cancel the franchise once irregularities are seen.

The bus takes a daily trip from its Sampaloc, Manila terminal to Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Involved in the search and rescue and retrieval operation were the Mt. Province Police Provincial Office personnel, Bontoc Emergency Response Team, concerned citizens of Barangay Talubin and other volunteer responders.

The Halsema Highway or the Baguio-Bontoc Road, which stretches from Baguio City to Bontoc, Mountain Province, is the highest altitude highway in the country with zigzag roads and sharp curves making it difficult for untrained drivers to traverse. (Sun.Star Baguio/Sunnex/With AP)

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