PUGO, LA UNION, Philippines ? Unopened bottles of ube jam, several pieces of broken walis tambo (broom), assorted vegetables and an everlasting garland were among the goodies left scattered by the roadside in Barangay Palina the morning after a bus full of pilgrims hit a tree on Saturday.
Police on Sunday said at least 12 people died while 39 others were hurt after the PJM Love Bus, which came from Baguio City, lost its brakes and slammed into an acacia tree past a curve along Marcos Highway in Palina at 5:40 p.m.
The bus was carrying members of a Catholic parish in Sta. Rosa City in Laguna, who were on a Visita Iglesia (Church Visit) in Baguio.
Eight passengers were killed instantly as the bus? right side was ripped open by the impact. Four others died while undergoing treatment at Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Baguio City, more than 25 km from here.
Of the 39 injured victims, 21 suffered cuts and bruises and were released from hospitals in Baguio City and Agoo town on Saturday and Sunday.
Chief Inspector Jacinto Lipaen, Pugo police chief, said Warlito Pastero Sayoco, Luisa Gasapos, Eleuteria Reyes, Liberia Reyes, Mikhail Reyes, Mercedita Reyes, Isabelita Reyes and another unidentified passenger died instantly as the bus rammed the tree. Their bodies were taken to the Holy Family Funeral Homes here.
The bus driver, Silvestre Binay Jr., 59, was treated at La Union Medical Center in Agoo town. The Pugo police took custody of Binay after he was released from a hospital in Agoo town.
Lipaen said police were preparing multiple homicide charges against the bus driver.
Help from Sta. Rosa
Sta. Rosa City Mayor Arlene Nazareno?s office said she had talked with Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. to inform the Baguio City government that Nazareno?s office would shoulder the payment of the victims? hospital expenses in Baguio.
Nazareno?s office also said the mayor would pay for the transportation expenses of the bodies, who would be brought back to Sta. Rosa and for burial expenses of those who died.
Shanda Sena, 32, a resident of Palina, said she was waiting for a bus to Baguio at past 5:30 p.m. when she saw the speeding bus appearing on a bend.
Sena said the bus then swerved toward the road shoulder and slammed into an acacia tree.
At the crash site, assorted pasalubong (gifts) items were strewn together with clothes, sandals, water bottles, plates and food containers.
Sena said a group of children playing in that area had left a few minutes before the crash.
?It was fortunate that the children had gone home. Had they stayed there a few minutes more, they would have been hit by the bus,? she said.
Residents and policemen stationed in an outpost more than 500 meters from the crash site were first on the accident scene at about 6 p.m. Yolanda Sotelo and Robert Abaño, Inquirer Northern Luzon