MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Eighteen-year-old actor and model AJ Perez was killed in a highway accident in Tarlac early Sunday morning, according to a report by radio dzMM.
Police said Perez was with his father and 4 others aboard an ABS-CBN van that collided with a Partas provincial passenger bus along McArthur Highway in Barangay San Julian, Tarlac.
Police Officer 2 Michael Millante of the Moncada Police told dzMM that Perez was declared dead on arrival by a hospital in Paniqui shortly after the accident took place at 12:10 a.m.
Perez’s 5 other companions were reportedly also injured during the crash and were taken to the hospital for treatment. They are Gerardo Perez (father), driver Christopher Bautista, Christina Ferrer, Edwin Patelos and Dannilyn Nunga.
The group had just come from a show in Dagupan and were reportedly on their way back to Manila.
Millante said the van carrying the victims tried to overtake a trailer truck when it collided with the incoming Partas bus.
"Nung makarating sa may Barangay San Julian, allegedly itong van ng ABS-CBN, um-overtake ng isang trailer. 'Yung pagka-overtake n'ya po, in the process, nag-alangan po siya. Tinamaan po niya itong Partas na nagresulta sa pagkapinsala nung laman ng van," he said.
Earlier, showbiz reporter and columnist Ogie Diaz reported the incident through his Twitter account.
"Galing ng Dagupan, pauwi na. Tulog lahat sa van. Sa Tarlac, biglang bumangga sa trak. Bago pa nadala si AJ Perez sa ospital, wala nang buhay," Diaz tweeted.
Diaz said he has talked to the father of the Star Magic actor.
"Nasa isang clinic sa Paniqui, Tarlac ang mga labi ni AJ Perez. Kausap ko si Daddy kanina, iyak nang iyak. Ndi ako makakatulog nito," added Diaz.
Shortly before the accident, Perez was still able to post a Twitter message thanking his fans who attended his show in Dagupan.
"On the way home already from Dagupan.Long drive ahead.. Thanks to everybody who watched, thanks to zui for the gifts.And hi again to jarred!" said Perez.
Messages of sympathy
ABS-CBN, meanwhile, issued a statement regarding the actor's death.
"ABS-CBN sympathizes with AJ's Family on his untimely demise and urges everyone to pray for the eternal repose of AJ's soul and for the family and love ones he left behind," the network said in a statement read by Corporate Communications manager Kathy Solis over dzMM.
Fans and co-workers took to the social media networks to express their shock about the news of Perez's sudden death. They also expressed messages of sympathy to the actor's family.
"Aj. You were like a brother to me. You'll always be in my heart. May you rest in peace.'," wrote young actress Lauren Young who was paired with Perez in the now-defunct youth-oriented television show "Abt Ur Luv."
"I'm going to miss you so much. My loveteam, my friend, my brother. All I know is you're in a better place now and I won't question that," she added.
"We are so saddened with the passing of AJ Perez (@ajperez17). Rest in peace brother. :( #fb," tweeted actor Enchong Dee.
":( condolences and prayers of comfort and strength to the family and love ones of aj perez... Such sad news.." beauty queen Lara Quigaman said in her Twitter account.
"I'm still in shock. My condolences to the family of AJ Perez. napakabait na bata," shared actress Angel Locsin.
Perez, or Antonello Joseph Sarte Perez in real life, appeared in various commercials of companies and brands, Colgate, Pepsi, Sun Cellular, Ayala Land, and Globe Telecom. He popularized the phrase "ye-bah!" in the UFC Banana Ketchup ad.
ABS-CBN first spotted him in Milo commercial, where the 5'8"-tall La Salle Greenhils student showed off his basketball skills. He then underwent workshops and eventually became a member of ABS-CBN's circle of homegrown talents collectively known as Star Magic.
He was part of the cast of various movies, including "Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo" and its sequel, "Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo", BFF: Best Friends Forever, Ang Tanging Pamilya: A Marry Go Round," among others.
On TV, he was part of the teen-oriented program "Abt Ur Luv", and various television series, including "Lobo" and "Agua Bendita".
He played the main cast role in the recently concluded primetime drama, "Sabel".
On Sundays, he joined other ABS-CBN artists on the popular A.S.A.P. variety show where he is part of the boy group "Giggerboys."
Perez was born on February 17, 1993 to a Bicolana mother and Ilonggo father.