Updated 22:08 PM PHT Thu, April 20, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — At least 33 people were killed after a bus fell into a 100-foot ravine in Barangay Capintalan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija last Tuesday.
This was the latest number from Passenger Accident Management and Insurance Agency, Inc. (PAMI) operations manager Bong Nocum, while the number of passengers on board are still being determined.
Police estimate 77 people were on the bus, including about 15 teenagers aged 15-19. A one-year-old child died in the incident.
Nocum said children whose height were less than a meter travel for free, while some just sit on their guardian's laps.
Survivors were taken to the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya and other nearby hospitals, and are being treated for their injuries. Police are awaiting clearance from physicians to conduct an investigation.
The ill-fated LeoMarick Trans bus was traveling from Ilagan, Isabela to Candon, Ilocos Sur.
'Driver lost control of bus'
According to the Nueva Ecija Province Police investigation, the driver lost control of the LeoMarick bus when the right front wheel burst, which led to the bus falling into the ravine.
Breaking News: Initial probe report on Nueva Ecija bus crash released pic.twitter.com/UPXkYHC3Rj— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) April 20, 2017
Survivors disclosed to the police that the driver overtook another vehicle, before the bus experienced problems with its engine. The bus then lost its power and brakes that caused the driver to lose control of steering wheel.
The Nueva Ecija crime laboratory will conduct an autopsy on the driver, alternate driver and conductor to check for any drug or alcohol traces.
The LTFRB is also looking at possible overloading, as the bus only had a seating capacity for 45 passengers.
It is checking the roadworthiness of the bus, the chassis of which was registered in 2006. The agency is also inspecting the condition of the other bus parts.
The police will file appropriate charges in coordination with the LTFRB due to negligence of the bus operator.
Financial help to be given to families, survivors
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member Aileen Lizada says that the first batch of financial assistance worth P200,000 - for the families of those who died - will be released on Saturday at the Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya office of LTFRB.
PAMI will also release P20,000 for each injured passenger treated at hospitals.
Lizada said a help desk had been set up for the victims' families.
The LTFRB said the road is an accident-prone area, where at least five road crashes have been recorded in recent years.
It noted there were no signs indicating the area was accident-prone despite these crashes.
There is also a gap in the road's concrete barrier due to a previous incident where a truck crashed at the same site.
Magdalo Volunteer Rescue Team member John Pigangay, one of the first responders after the incident, said the LeoMarick bus slipped through this gap.
The Department of Public Works and Highways has inspected the area and measured the gap in the barrier. DPWH authorities said the barrier will be rebuilt as soon as possible.
Authorities have yet to confirm if the bus driver and conductor survived the incident.
Police are locating the bus operator, LeoMarick Trans. They have invited the company to issue a statement at the Carranglan Police Station.
LTFRB Chief Martin Delgra said the bus had violated its franchise, as it was plying a different route than permitted.
Delgra said the ill-fated bus was meant to pass the town of Maddela in the province of Quirino instead of Caranggalan in Nueva Ecija.
The LTFRB has already issued a preventive suspension order against the operator.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Tuesday said the Palace extends its sympathies to the victims.
"We express our deep condolences to the families of the victims who died in the tragic bus accident in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija," Abella said.
As investigation is underway, Abella said the government guarantees culprits behind the fatal bus mishap will be held accountable.
CNN Philippines' Makoi Popioco and JC Gotinga contributed to this report
This story was updated at 11 p.m. to reflect the current number of fatalities.