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Tricycle driver in collision was deaf

NAGA CITY—Tricycle driver Danilo Doroteo did not hear the Manila-bound Bicol Express train coming and it proved disastrous.

It turned out that Doroteo was hearing-impaired and by the time he realized he was directly on the path of the train, it was too late. The impact of the collision was so strong, Doroteo and his children—Kimberly, 13, and Kent Lester, 12, both high school students—died instantly. Two other passengers, a public school teacher and a student, died later in the hospital.

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These minutes-before-the-impact information came from Mikee Villanueva, 15, one of the eight passengers who survived the tragedy.

Mikee (not Michael as earlier reported), who along with three other boys sat on the roof of the overloaded tricycle, recounted that the driver did not hear the train’s whistle even though they were pounding the tricycle while it was maneuvering the uphill road that crossed the railroad in San Isidro, Iriga City, last Friday.

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“He did not hear the train coming,” said Villanueva who did not know until after the incident that their driver was deaf.

Villanueva and his rooftop companions were able to jump off the tricycle and survived. Villanueva only had bruises.

Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Gazmen told the Inquirer on Saturday that she immediately directed her staff members to draft an ordinance that would require tricycle drivers plying within the city to submit to hearing and eyesight tests before their permits for tricycle operation are approved.

She said the city government would also take measures against overloading, even as she admitted that the city’s traffic enforcers could not monitor all railroad junctions all over Iriga City while overloading tricycle drivers use interior roads to avoid apprehension.

Tricycles should only carry five persons, or four passengers and the driver, but there were 13 persons on Doroteo’s tricycle. The 12 passengers were a teacher and 11 students on their way to Ceferino Arroyo Memorial National High School in Barangay San Agustin.

Iriga police spokesperson PO3 Marcia Aquiller said it was the wife of Doroteo who told the police that her husband was deaf.

Aquiller, however, said there was no medical certificate to prove that. “As you can see he (Doroteo) just had his license renewed, and before you could get a driver’s license you would undergo a medical examination,” Aquiller pointed out.

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She said she interviewed one of the tricycle driver’s neighbors and was told that Doroteo could understand “clearly” when talked to in a loud voice.

Gazmen said Doroteo apparently was avoiding traffic enforcers when he and his overloaded tricycle used an interior road that crossed a railroad at the boundary of San Isidro and San Agustin in Iriga City.

The accident occurred at about 7 a.m. on June 22 with three persons dead on the spot and two others dead on arrival at Rinconada District Hospital.

Eight others were rushed to hospitals in Iriga City and survived the accident.

Constancio Toledano, manager of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) station in Naga City, meanwhile, said the PNR has no responsibility over the accident since the driver was not supposed to cross that part of the railway at any given time.

He said the PNR was giving assistance to the survivors and the dead victims. Froilan Ollero, the machinist/driver of the PNR train involved in the incident, was released early morning Friday from police custody, he said.

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