Investigation launched after bus plunges into ravine, leaving 19 dead

The aftermath of the deadly crash. Photo from Occidental Mindoro PDRRMO

An investigation has been launched after 19 people were killed and 17 injured after a bus plunged off a bridge into a ravine.

Police confirmed the death toll today (Wednesday, March 21) after the crash in Sablayan town, Occidental Mindoro, yesterday evening.

The initial police report on the crash said the bus was travelling along a downhill stretch of road before it struck a bridge railing and left the carriageway.

Police investigator Alexis said that a mechanical problem may have caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, which was operated by Dimple Star Bus company.

Police officer Ian Villanosa confirmed that the driver was among the dead and that the winding road where the accident occurred had been under repair.

The crash is only the latest high-casualty incident we have reported on Philippine roads.

In February last year, 14 people — most of them students on the way to a camping trip —  were killed when their bus crashed in Tanay town in Rizal province. The tragedy was caused by failing brakes on a steep stretch of road, which sent the bus careering into a tree.

Then, in January this year, seven Canadian Filipino medics on a charity mission were killed when the driver of their van fell asleep at the wheel in Alegria Town, Cebu.

Highway fatalities remain stubbornly high in the Philippines due to combination of poor law enforcement, dilapidated vehicles and lack of features on the roads.

Senator Grace Poe has now renewed her call for the creation of a National Transportation Safety Board and other steps such as inspections of vehicles and strict licensing of drivers.

She said: “Sadly, the list of tragic road accidents and their casualties continue to increase because vehicles that are not roadworthy or even those we label as rolling coffins are still allowed to ply the roads with near impunity.”

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has now issued a 30-day preventive suspension order against the bus company.

Its vehicles will be subjected to inspection and road worthiness tests during the suspension, while its drivers and other personnel will undergo road safety seminars and drug testing.