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Bus falls off Skyway near Bicutan, 18 dead

(Updated 7:27 p.m.) Eighteen people were reported killed after a bus fell off the southbound part of the Skyway in Taguig City before dawn Monday, the Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group said.

"Confirmed ang 21 patay at mahigit 20 ang sugatan as of now," PNP HPG spokesperson Superintendent Elizabeth Velasquez said in an interview on dzBB shortly after the horrific crash.

Later in the day, Velasquez revised the casualty count to 18 dead and 16 injured. 

"Na-rectify (na namin), siguro nagkaroon lang ng kaunting pagkakamali sa pagbilang sa mga hospital na pinuntahan," she said in explaining the error.

Early rush hour traffic was snarled in the area as the service road below the Skyway was closed to vehicles, radio dzBB's Mao dela Cruz reported.
The report cited initial police findings showing the accident involved a Don Mariano Transit bus that fell off the elevated part of Skyway and crashed into a van below.

A report by GMA News' Mark Salazar on GMA News TV's Balitanghali said the driver of the Don Mariano bus was alive but in a critical state, according to the Parañaque Doctor's Hospital. He is recuperating at the said hospital, contrary to earlier reports that said he was one of the fatalities. 
It was not immediately known if the passengers of the van were among the 18 reported fatalities. Most of the people killed, who have yet to be identified, were passengers of the bus, the Balitanghali report said.


In an earlier dzBB report, Velasquez said information reaching the HPG indicated the driver of the van was among the injured while the driver of the bus was among those killed. 


According to the Associated Press, however, Velasquez said the van's driver was killed and the bus driver was in serious condition in a hospital.

Some 20 people were reported injured and brought to a nearby hospital.

An initial investigation showed the bus was plying the Novaliches-Pacita route.
The report said at least seven bodies were brought out of the bus as of 6:53 a.m.

However, it said the number of fatalities may go up as several other passengers were still trapped inside the bus.

TV footage showed a number of bodies strewn around the bus wreckage with police officers milling around. The van was an unrecognizable pile of smashed white metal, Associated Press reported.
Ivy Vidal, spokeswoman of Skyway Operations and Maintenance Corp., the corporation running the Skyway, said it was not clear what caused the accident but added that it was wet due to rain, AP also said in its report.       
LTFRB suspends bus fleet

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) suspended the entire 78-unit fleet of Don Mariano Transit Corp. hours after the accident.
"Suspended ang buong fleet ng Don Mariano Transit Corp. dahil sa nakaraang aksidente na rin," LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He said the entire fleet will be preventively suspended for 30 days, but added the owner had voluntarily recalled all the firm's units as of Monday morning.
An earlier separate report by dzBB's Allan Gatus said the LTFRB suspended the franchise of Don Mariano bus.

Ginez said the agency was also studying whether to suspend the entire fleet of Don Mariano bus lines due to its track record of accidents.

"Sa aming policy, ang prangkisa ng involved (na bus ang automatically suspended. Pero) dahil grabe ang nangyari at kasalukuyan nating mino-monitor, pag-aaralan namin kung isang franchise o buong fleet (ang isususpinde)," Ginez said in an earlier interview on dzBB radio.
Ginez said they will review all the previous accidents involving the firm's buses. 
He noted a Don Mariano bus had also figured in an accident at a flyover along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in July 2012, when the driver was speeding while texting.

Also, he said the drivers of the buses covered by the suspension would have to undergo safety courses while the buses undergo inspections and roadworthiness tests.
Ginez also said the LTFRB will summon the owners of Don Mariano Transit to make sure that they would assist the fatalities' families.
"Ipapatawag din namin ang may-ari para ma-assist ang namatay," he said.
He said the buses should have insurance that will provide the fatalities' loved ones with P75,000. 

Ginez later said the bus owner promised to shoulder the medical costs of the victims.

He also said they will be on the lookout for buses of Don Mariano's sister companies.
"Nakatimbre na yan sa law enforcer natin," he said. 

Not the first time

Monday's mishap was not the first time a vehicle fell from the Skyway.

A report on GMA News TV's News To Go on Monday said three people were killed when a passenger bus plunged into the Sucat West Service Road in Parañaque in July 2011, while a passenger of a jeepney died when an SUV fell on top of it in October 2006.

It was also not the first time the Don Mariano bus line figured in an accident. 
In July 2012, six were hurt when a Don Mariano bus rammed the railings of EDSA Ortigas flyover. The driver was supposedly texting when the incident happened.
In August 2012, another Don Mariano bus hit a motorcycle in Magallanes area in Makati, instantly killing the rider.
Since 2007, the bus line figured in seven accidents, including Monday's incident, according to a "24 Oras" report.
"Ito ay magiging mahalaga sa amin dahil makikita po natin 'yung history at frequency ng mga violation. Kung naka-tatlong violation, pwedeng maging dahilan ng revokation o cancellation ng franchise," Ginez said in the report.
Meanwhile, a spate of bus accidents happened all over the country in the past two months.

One such incident occurred in Quezon in November, where a passenger bus crashed into a motorcycle which then exploded, causing the bus to catch fire. Another happened in Camarines Sur, as a Manila-bound bus collided with a Bicol-bound bus, killing six and leaving 8 passengers in critical condition.
— with Rie Takumi/KG/RSJ/YA/ELR, GMA News