BAGUIO CITY—Families from Marinduque are expected to arrive here early today not to marvel at this year’s Baguio Flower Festival street dancing and floral float parade but to help identify the seven dead from Thursday evening’s bus crash on Marcos Highway in Benguet.
The 31 students of Marinduque State College (MSC) were on the Baguio leg of a Manila-Ilocos-Baguio field trip from Feb. 18 to 21 and were being driven back to Manila along with two teachers and two tour guides when the bus driver lost control of the vehicle and collided with a food container truck along the highway in Sitio Bontiwey, Barangay Badiwan in Tuba, Benguet.
The accident happened at 10:30 p.m. shortly after the Alfa tour bus had passed the Baguio-Tuba boundary. The tour bus driver, Roger Cuyo, was among the injured.
The truck, owned by the Havi Food Services Phils., was delivering frozen products to a fast-food restaurant in Baguio. It was badly smashed during the collision.
Police said the tour bus also struck a Baguio-bound bus but none of its three passengers were hurt. The tour bus had two more drivers onboard to relieve Cuyo, police said.
Rescuers said they found six people already dead when they reached the accident site. The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) requested the families to identify the fatalities.
Rescuers brought 35 people to Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for treatment, many of them aged between 19 and 22.
On Friday morning, the OCD said one of those rescued, student Marvin Palatino, died at the hospital.
Dr. Leodegario Jalos Jr., vice president for academic affairs of MSC, confirmed the death of tourism students Diane Laurio and Palatino, and teachers Jenny Liza Lantoria and Mariel Mingi.
Princess Pastorfide, also a student, was reportedly among those who died but Jalos said her body has yet to be identified. Leopoldo Nana, a reliever-driver, and Carlo Pintor, a tour guide, were also among the dead.
A pall of gloom yesterday descended upon the campus of MSC, the province’s only state college, after news on the death of three students and two teachers came.
Jalos also confirmed that 28 other students were hurt, two of them in critical condition.
“We mourn with the families of those who died and we will help them in all of their needs, including legal assistance,” he said.
He said the field trip was authorized, as Lantoria, the department chair, who was one of the fatalities, was able to comply with the requirements needed by the Commission on Higher Education and MSC.
MSC officials, including its president, Dr. Romulo Malvar, Jalos and Office of the Student Affairs director Arnel Lantita were scheduled to leave on Friday for a 12-hour trip to Baguio City along with the parents of the 31 students who joined the field trip.
Supt. Jesus Cambay, Baguio city police director, said “the [tour] bus was clearly speeding,” based on initial police investigation.
Cambay said the Badiwan section of Marcos Highway is prone to accidents. Last year during the 17th staging of the annual flower festival, a passenger bus collided with a car almost on the same spot, injuring 26 people, he said.