Fifteen pensioners dead after jeepney plunges into ravine in Kalinga

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jeepney
The crumpled remains of the jeepney. Picture via the Philippine News Agency.

Fifteen elderly people were killed after an overloaded jeepney plunged into a ravine in Kalinga as they returned from a trip to collect their pensions.

The victims died after the vehicle tumbled 200 metres down a sheer slope at about 2.30pm yesterday (Tuesday, September 11). Kalinga is a mountainous province in the northern highlands of Luzon island.

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It is believed the jeepney’s brakes failed as it was driving down a steep, curved section of road.

As well as the fatalities, 26 of the estimated 50 passengers sustained serious injuries.

They were taken to Kalinga Western District Hospital for immediate treatment. The family of the dead have each been given 10,000 pesos for their funeral services by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DPWH).

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The driver of the jeepney, Francisco Gumaad, survived the crash. Senior Superintendent Alfredo Dangani, Kalinga Police Provincial Director, said he will be questioned once he recovers.

In a statement, the DPWH “expressed deep sadness on the vehicular accident that claimed the lives of some our Social Pension Program beneficiaries”.

All those who died were returning from claiming their 500-peso monthly stipend from the DSWD in Balbalan town.

“We are saddened by the news. It was an incident that nobody wanted. We condole with the families of the victims,” DSWD Secretary Virginia Orogo said.

The provincial government of Kalinga and the DSWD have pledged to give aid to the families of the victims.

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

In March, we reported how 19 were killed when a bus plunged off a cliff in Occidental Mindoro. At a hearing into the tragedy, the owner admitted that he had bought the vehicle from a junk shop.

In February last year, 14 people — most of them school children 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 safety features on the roads.

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