(Updated 1:30 p.m.)
In the pre-dawn darkness of December 16, an aging passenger bus traveling at high speed near Bicutan drove through the Skyway's low railing
and crashed to the ground from a height of about four storeys. Eighteen people were killed.
With the Don Mariano Transit bus not making contact with any other vehicle on the Skyway, what could have caused one of the nation's worst road tragedies in 2013? Did the driver fall asleep? Was he texting? Or was he just speeding in a bus with bald tires on a rain-slick highway?
We will probably never know, as the driver succumbed to his injuries on Monday night, December 23, becoming the 19th fatality of the crash.
Carmelo Calatcat, 39, died before 7 p.m. Monday at the Parañaque Doctors Hospital, a reliable hospital source has confirmed to GMA News Online in a telephone interview.
The source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the driver died from pulmonary complications secondary to his injuries.
Though he was already conscious a few days after the crash, he was hooked up to a ventilator, making him incapable of speaking, the source, a doctor at the hospital, told GMA News Online.
"He was awake, he was conscious since Thursday, pero hindi makapagsalita. Nag-sign nalang siya to communicate with his wife at sa mga doctor," she added.
In a telephone interview with GMA News Online, Parañaque Doctors Hospital medical director Carmencita Solidum said that while police were on guard outside the hospital room, investigators failed to get a statement from the driver. She added that she was not able to talk to Calatcat regarding the accident.
For his part, Police Senior Superintendent Sheldon Jacaban, Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group's deputy director for operations, confirmed that investigators also failed to get his statement "dahil kritikal pa ang kanyang kalagayan."
How much of the crash was the driver's fault could have been gleaned from his statement.
He added that though Calatcat's case has been "extinguished" with his death, civil cases may still be filed against the Don Mariano Transit Corp.
"Wala na 'yung criminal case, recklessness laban sa driver," he said, noting that the driver was driving at an estimated speed of 110 to 120 kph before the accident.
Had he not died, Calatcat would have faced a slew of charges, including reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.
However, the firm may still be held accountable for "negligence—worn out na ang tires. They did not exercise prudence."
"Kung with new tires, maaaring hindi maganap ang insidente, mas magiging controllable kasi," Jacaban added.
He noted that the driver tested negative for alcohol or drugs.
Meanwhile, the police official said even without the principal suspect's statement, the case may still progress with other witnesses and video footage.
"Nakapagbigay na ng statement ang driver sa kotse sa harap ng bus, magagamit rin ang video ng Skyway," he added.
The incident prompted the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to suspend Don Mariano Transit's 78-unit fleet for 30 days while an investigation is ongoing. — with Amanda Fernandez/RSJ/HS/BM, GMA News