Speeding field trip bus kills 7 in Benguet

From a report by Maira Wallis, ABS-CBN News Northern Luzon

Posted at Feb 22 2013 07:29 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2013 06:52 AM

BENGUET (3rd UPDATE) – At least 7 people died after a bus collided with a 14-wheeler truck along Marcos Highway in Tuba, Benguet Thursday night.

The bus was carrying students from Marinduque State College, who had just finished a field trip in Baguio.
Six died on the spot, including two teachers, two students, a substitute driver and a tour guide.

They were identified as:

• Diane Lauria, student
• Princess Pastor Fide, student
• Mariel Mingi, teacher
• Jennylyn Lanturia, teacher
• Leopoldo Nana, substitute driver
• Boyet Carlo

Marvin Platino was declared dead at the Baguio General Hospital.

Their remains were brought to the Baguio Memorial Chapel.

Thirty-two people were also injured in the collision, including the driver of the tourist bus, who is now in critical condition.

The impact of the crash was so strong that two women were ejected from the bus, and several others ended up hanging from the vehicle's windows.

Police say the bus, carrying some 40 people, was going too fast at a downward portion of the highway when it collided with an approaching truck.

“Pababa siya, na-overshoot niya ‘yung lane niya at pumunta doon sa lane ng kabila. Obviously, parang lumalabas na kasalanan ng bus,” said Supt. Edwin Butacan, chief of RHPU-CAR.

The driver of the truck, Joel Bengua, also said the bus was speeding.

“Sobrang bilis po, estimate ko tumatakbo mga 160 [kph] pababa,” he said.

Meantime, Marinduque State College (MSC) plans to file cases against Roger Albayalde, the bus driver, and Saint Baraquel Travel Agency, the group that organized the trip.

In an interview with MSC spokesperson Dr. Leodegario Jalos, he said that aside from reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injury charges against the two drivers, they will also file charges against the owner of the travel agency.

"Bawat isa sa mga biktima, magsasampa ng kaso laban sa driver at sa St. Barachiel Educational Tours. So, 30 plus ‘yun," Jalos said.

The school has not been able to contact the agency following the crash.

Meantime, the school is shouldering all the hospitalization expenses of the victims, as well as the transportation, lodging, and allowance of their relatives going to Baguio City.

Illegal trip

Based on records from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the bus operator had applied for a tourist bus franchise before the LTFRB regional office in Region 1 last February 12.

Based on the deed of sale, its owners are Carlo and Lourdes Pintor who bought the unit from Mhel Bhen Motors Corp.

But since the franchise is still being processed, the trip was illegal.

“Colorum ‘yung bus na ‘yun so he has no authority to operate as a public vehicle and no authority to operate as tourist transport vehicle,” said Francisco Mendoza, executive director of the LTFRB.

The owners may be banned from getting a franchise in the future.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), meanwhile, is studying all the lapses and violations of the school.

Aside from its failure to get an accredited tour bus company, CHED is also questioning certain decisions made by the school and the organizers.

“Unang-una, lumalabas ng gabing-gabi na bumaba ang mga estudyante. Mahirap ‘yung terrain doon at madilim, at dapat huwag masyado malayo,” said Julito Vitriolo, CHED executive director.

A school may be prevented from conducting further educational tours if proven that they have failed to comply with CHED's regulations.

In worse cases, their permit for a specific program may be cancelled altogether.

Just recently, 2 students were also killed in Tanay, Rizal during an educational trip.

The Department of Education (DepEd) is already reviewing their regulations.

CHED and DepEd also reiterated that even if a waiver is signed by a parent, it does not excuse the school from liabilities. -- With reports from Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News; ANC