MANILA (7th UPDATE) – A Don Mariano Transit Corp. bus fell off the Skyway on the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) Monday morning, killing 18 people.
The bus with plate number UVC 916 bound for Pacita Complex in Laguna fell off the elevated part of Skyway in Barangay Marcelo Green, Parañaque City and plunged into the west service road of SLEx at around 5 a.m.
An aluminum van (ULX 874) reportedly carrying at least 2 people was crushed after the bus fell on top of it.
The Philippine National Police - Highway Patrol Group said 18 people died in the freak accident. Sixteen others, including bus driver Carmelo Calatcat, were injured.
A Philippine Red Cross report, however, said as many as 22 people died when the bus fell off the elevated highway.
At least 5 fatalities have been identified by their relatives. They were bus conductor Ramon Labang Jr., 24; Rodel Tolentino, 53; Joey Esponilla, 23; Edralyn Castor; and Rolly Borres.
According to Labang's pregnant live-in partner, the conductor was only working as a reliever in the ill-fated bus.
The incident caused heavy traffic along SLEx and also affected flow of vehicles along Epifanio delo Santos Avenue (EDSA).
Traffic investigators have yet to determine how the bus fell off the Skyway. The bus and the closed van were heavily damaged.
Driver Irene Sisperez told radio DZMM that her car was overtaken by the bus right before it fell of the Skyway.
She said she believes that the bus violated the Skyway speed limit for buses.
"Nag-overtake sa akin ang Don Mariano bus. Nagku-kwentuhan kami ng anak ko, sabi ko 'tignan mo itong bus na ito hindi marunong sumunod.' Ang speed ko 80 (kph) eh, nag-overtake siya sa akin so ang estimate ko 100 to 110 kph (ang bilis niya)," she said.
"Ilang meters pa lang, nakita ko biglang nahulog ang bus. Walang ibang sasakyan, ako lang talaga ang nasa likod niya eh."
Sisperez added she did not see any vehicle apart from the bus, confirming a report that the closed van was traveling along SLEx and was crushed by the bus.
Skyway communications officer Ivy Vidal told ANC that the wet road may have caused the bus to ram the Skyway railings and plunge into the road below.
She said the Skyway management is now reviewing the footage of the accident. She added that the Skyway railings follow international standards.
"Hindi iyan basta-basta matitibag unless malakas ang impact," Vidal said.
Due to the accident, the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) has issued a 30-day preventive suspension for all 78 units of Don Mariano Transit.
LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said the owner of the bus company agreed to recall all the buses, which will have to undergo road-worthiness inspections.
All bus drivers of Don Mariano Transit are also ordered to undergo re-training. Ginez also ordered that the bus driver of the ill-fated bus be subjected to drug and alcohol tests.
The families of the fatalities would be receiving P75,000 each from the insurance company of Don Mariano Transit Corp., while those injured would receive P15,000 each, Ginez said.
Today's incident is not the first time that a bus fell off the Skyway.
On June 26, 2011, three people were killed after a Dimples Star Transport bus fell off the Skyway. – reports from Dennis Datu and Henry Atuelan, dzMM; and Jerome Lantin, ABS-CBN News