SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – Seventeen of the 28 passengers onboard the Ceres bus of the Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI) died when it plunged off a cliff along the national highway in Barangay Igbucagay, municipality of Hamtic in Antique, on Tuesday.
Antique Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao, citing the report of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) during a press conference Wednesday, said the 17 either died on the spot or while being treated at the Angel Salazar Memorial General Hospital (ASMGH) in San Jose de Buenavista.
Among the fatalities were the driver, conductor, and inspector of the Ceres bus and Kenyan missionary Patrick Musomi, who was pinned down and died on the spot.
Four are recovering from minor injuries at the ASMGH, while seven are under treatment in hospitals in Iloilo City because of serious injuries, including another Kenyan missionary, Nicolas Essissi, who had been serving the Roman Catholic Church in San Remigio, Antique, for over a year.
"I am calling on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to condemn the portion of the road where the accident happened,” Cadiao said.
She added that in the past, several vehicular accidents already happened in that portion of the road, which she considers a “killer road.”
The Western Visayas Regional Development Council, during her term as chair in 2019, passed a resolution for the construction of a new route to prevent further vehicular accidents in the area.
Cadiao added that the ongoing road improvement of the DPWH must have contributed to the danger because there was no signboard in the area where the incident happened.
The governor also instructed the Antique Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) to process the burial assistance for the fatalities.
PDRRM Officer Broderick Train admitted difficulty retrieving bodies because the cliff is about 60-70 meters deep.
“We were able to retrieve the last cadaver Wednesday morning,” Train said, adding they made sure they accounted for all fatalities before leaving the incident site.
Antique Provincial Police Office Director Rogelio Abran, Jr. said they have yet to retrieve the security data (SD) card from the bus dashboard for their investigation.
He will also inquire with the Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) Regional Office 6 to confirm the temporary suspension of VTI buses plying the Iloilo to Antique route.
The VTI, in a statement, said it has reported the incident to the LTFRB "and is willing to cooperate with any investigations they will be conducting."
"In coordination with the LTFRB Region 6, the management has decided to voluntarily suspend all operations of the 12 remaining units under the franchise involving Case No. 11-VI-021-AK pending investigation, wherein the bus involved in the incident had been a part of," the statement released Tuesday evening said.
It will also extend financial assistance to passengers and their families and shoulder medical and burial expenses.
"Rest assured that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that this is being handled properly and carefully. The management guarantees the riding public that we are taking all the appropriate steps to ensure that our buses are road-worthy and well-maintained," it added. (PNA)