|Maria Venus Raj and other 2010 Miss Universe candidates in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Venus Raj, the country's representative to this year's Miss Universe pageant, said she is more determined to win the crown after hearing about the passing of her fellow beauty titlist, Melody Gersbach.
"I'm sure gugustuhin ni Melody (Gersbach) na ituloy ko ito...I'm dedicating this Miss Universe to her," a visibly saddened Raj said.
Gersbach, who made it in the Top 15 of the Miss International pageant held in China last year, was supposed to attend the screening of Miss Bicolandia as one of the committee members.
She passed away in a car-bus collision in Bula Town, Camarines Sur, together with her make-up artist Alden Orense and driver Santos Ramos Jr. (Read story here.)
Her companion, Ronald Lita, survived the crash. Four bus passengers, meanwhile, were reportedly hurt.
The driver of the bus, identified as Wilson de los Santos, has surrendered to the police in nearby Pili town. He said the bus lost control after its tie rod broke, hitting Gersbach's car.
Police authorities have readied charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries against de los Santos.
Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BCPI) has expressed condolences to the Gersbach family.
In a statement, BCPI chairwoman Stella Marquez-Araneta said Gersbach's passing has left everyone in their organization "deeply saddened."
She added, "Her passing will not only leave a void in our lives, but also in the hearts of everyone who knew her. Melody's memory will always remain deep within our hearts."
For her part, 2009 Binibining Pilipinas-Universe said, "Sa family ni Melody, sobrang condolence po. Tita, kaya n'yo 'yan." -- With reports from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News and Jonathan Magistrado, ABS-CBN Bicol