Posted: 2/7/14 8:00 PM | Updated 2/7/14 9:20 PM
By JM Agreda
A Florida bus liner carrying 45 passengers bound for the town of Bontoc in Mountain Province fell off a 116-meter ravine Friday morning at Sitio Pagang, Barangay Talubin.
Senior Supt. Oliver Enmodias, Police Provincial Director for Mountain Province, said the bus, with plate number TXT 872, was traveling along Halsema Highway when it fell off a sharp curve, plunging down into a rice field causing the death of at least 14 passengers.
While rescuers retrieved the remains of the fatalities, some 31 other passengers who sustained various injuries were rushed to nearby Bontoc General Hospital for treatment.
Police reported initially that the fatalities included Canadian Alex Loring and Dutch Anne Van De Ven.
Other fatalities were identified as Marcial Bernard Jr.; Andrew David Sicam; Natividad Ngawa; Gerald Baja; Ana Alaba, Bam Morillo and five other still unidentified individuals, as police are finding it difficult to identify the bodies.
Among those injured was the bus driver, Alexander Longadey, and Dutch national Annenmik Veerwege.
Also injured were Aloy Atin; James Papsao; Carina Havier; Basilan Miluardo Baranhuat; Abegail Sikam; Edgar Ramon; Robert Conrado; Natty Bang-I; Kristina De Leon; Christian Cavardo; Bernard Burnhard; Camille Osorio; Melchor Suagen; Teresita Sawad; Silvestre Dawey; Agung Sikam; Jerymiah Agnapan; Winslaw Cariño; Michell Legrito; Dun Chavez; Jason Melchor; Charlie Santamaria; Peng Cordove; Olivia Aglipay; Estrella Embede; Demetria Danilo; Christian Sibrevilla and a certain Codiamat and Ammik.
LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez indicated that Florida bus line will automatically be slapped with a preventive suspension order.
Department of Transportation and Communication-Cordillera Regional Director Celina Claver reported that, based on the plate number of the bus, the ill-fated vehicle is an inter-regional bus line issued a franchise by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Central Office with case number 2007-0407 and franchise route of Manila via Bontoc to Banaue.
Claver said the entire fleet of Florida Bus Line covers at least 10 units of the bus plying the Mountain province route.
The Cordillera regional transportation director, who heads both the Land Transportation Office and the LTFRB offices here, said the bus was registered last February 2013 and is bound for renewal this month.
As of Friday afternoon, Claver disclosed that initial findings point at apparent mechanical error due to the failure of brakes, based on the investigation work of the Bontoc police and that the license plate was "illegally transferred" from another motor vehicle."
She added that this information was to be transmitted to Ginez in Manila.
Apparently, the bus franchise was initially granted to Cable Tours, which used to ply the Manila-Bontoc route.
Claver said the franchise was "bought" last year by Florida Bus Lines and now it is its bus where the plate number was illegally attached to.
LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez told Claver a deeper probe on the franchise irregularities will be conducted.
The bus takes a daily regular trip from its Sampaloc, Manila terminal to Bontoc, Mountain Province.
Involved in the search and rescue and retrieval operation are the Mt. Province Police Provincial Office personnel, Bontoc Emergency Response Team, concerned citizens of Barangay Talubin and other volunteer responders.
The Department of Health ranks the Cordillera Region in third place behind the National Capital Region and Central Luzon in the number of road accidents per year mainly due to its rugged terrain and lack of discipline among motorists.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.