Story by Jess Malabanan, News5-InterAksyon
CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga – At least 24 persons were initially reported to have died, and scores hurt, when a mini-bus plying Nueva Ecija and Ilocos Sur plunged into a deep ravine at Barangay Capintalan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija shortly before noon Tuesday, a sketchy police report said.
Senior Supt. Antonio Yarra, director of the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office in Cabanatuan City, said the retrieval of bodies believed pinned by the ill-fated bus is ongoing.
“Rescue and recovery operations are ongoing. We already have the body count numbering 24, so far. Government and private rescue teams have encountered difficulty in [the] difficult terrain,” Yarra said by telephone.
Some of the passengers rescued from the bus were brought to hospitals in nearby towns, said Yarra.
The Leo Maris mini-bus left Isabela bound for Candon, Ilocos, Sur when the driver, whose identity remains unknown, apparently failed to apply the brakes while negotiating a sharp curve along Sitio Nursery past 11 a.m.
The bus, Yarra said, plunged into a ravine some 100 feet below and was a total wreck.
Yarra said no information on the number of passengers on board is known, as no one from the bus firm has, so far, talked to the investigators.
“Our priority now is to get all the passengers who have been pinned by the bus,” said Yarra.
For her part, Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, expressed sadness about the mishap: “Kalunos-lunos na isa na namang bus ang naghatid ng mga pasahero sa malagim na kamatayan (How deplorable that one more bus has sent its passengers to such grim fate). We condole with the families who lost their loved ones.”
“We ask the authorities and the bus company management to address the needs of the victims as expeditiously as possible at this tragic time of great need.
“A detailed investigation is also in order, to make those responsible accountable and justice given to the victims. This incident underscores the urgent need for a National Transportation Safety Board that will ensure impartial investigation and formulate relevant safety policy.”