Twenty pilgrims were killed Monday in a head-on bus-jeep collision while traveling to Christmas Day Mass in the northern Philippines province of La Union, police said.
A jeep taking an extended family to a dawn church service crashed into a bus in the town of Agoo, 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Manila, killing 20 on board, Agoo police said.
Police Chief Superintendent Romulo Sapitula of Police Regional Office 1 told GMA News Online that 19 of the jeepney passengers were rushed to La Union Medical Center (LUMC) but were declared dead on arrival.
The deceased taken to LUMC, all residents of Barangay Pilar, Bauang, La Union, were:
- Florence Cabueñas
- Pepito Antolin y Rendon
- Cecil Antolin y Ramirez
- Mark JersonCabero
- Rolando Perez y Abenes
- Vicky Cabagbag y Aquino
- Jeraldine Cabradilla y Ramirez
- Kennedy Cabagbag
- Kyle Cabagbag - 6 months old
- Anna Karina Ramiscal - minor
- Claudia Cabradilla y Ramirez - minor
- Jeffrey Cabradilla y Sabado
- Nadine Joy Cabueñas – minor
- Norin Ivy Cabueñas - minor
- Neil Ivan Cabueñas - minor
- Manuelito Lomboy Jr
- Claudine Cabradilla y Ramirez
- Adila Antolin
- Vergie Antolin y Ramirez
Nelson Cabueñas, a five-month-old infant, passed away while undergoing treatment at Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center, where the following jeepney passengers were taken to:
- Ronald Cabueñas
- Ednalyn Ramirez y Aquino
- Ian Antolin y Ramirez
- Herson Cabiro
- Wenalyn Cabueñas
- Jessa Mae Cabradilla
- Chita Cabradilla
- Johny Cabradilla
- Jocelyn Cabradilla
The nine other occupants of the jeep were injured, as were 15 traveling on the bus, police said.
"They were trying to catch a Mass in Manaoag," police officer Vanessa Abubo told AFP, referring to a nearby town with a famous Catholic church.
The centuries-old Our Lady of Manaoag church is a popular pilgrimage site in the mainly Catholic nation, featuring an icon of the Virgin Mary which the faithful say performs miracles.
The driver, conductor, and passengers of the bus were brought to Agoo Family Hospital for treatment.
Agoo police head, Chief Inspector Roy Villanueva, told a radio station by telephone that the smaller vehicle had left its lane to overtake a third vehicle.
Authorities are investigating whether the driver, who Abubo said was among those killed, had fallen asleep or was under the influence, Villanueva added.
Diosdado Magpili, officer of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said in an interview on GMA News TV's Balitanghali that responders allegedly saw signs of the jeep overtaking a third vehicle.
"It looks like, allegedly, nag-overtake itong, kumuha ng linya itong jeep sa linya ng ano at sinalubong talaga itong bus, sinalubong ng jeep," Magpili said.
Magpili noted that the jeep came from a slight curve in the road, which had four lanes and enforces a no overtaking policy.
Villanueva said in another interview that the jeep was in the opposite lane and crashed into the bus head-on.
"Parang nangyari is nag-forward po sila lahat," Villanueva said of the victims inside the jeep.
Villanueva said the nine injured from the jeep are still at the hospital while the bus victims were transferred to another Partas bus and are on their way to their original destination.
The area of the accident was cleared of debris, the jeep moved to the side of the road, and the bus moved to the impounding area.
While not an accident-prone area, the area was also the site of a bus accident on December 22, 2016 in La Union which claimed the lives of two people, Villanueva said in an interview on News To Go.
"Du'n lang po sa aming data is may nangyaring aksidente du'n na previous year. Pero hindi naman po siya 'yung accident-prone area na maituturing," Villanueva said. —Agence France-Presse/Rie Takumi/KG, GMA News