De La Salle Lipa Senior High School (DLSL SHS) students Maxine Guinevere Vivas, Ma. Kristina Paula Mercurio, and driver Danilo Manalo were killed when the rear right tire of their vehicle exploded, causing it to lose control and roll over along STAR Tollway, Dec. 3.
Vivas, 17, was declared dead-on-the-spot, while Mercurio, 17, and Manalo, 63, were rushed to the Mary Mediatrix Medical Center (MMMC) and C.P. Reyes Hospital respectively, but eventually died from sustained injuries.
The van was carrying 18 passengers, 11 of which are DLSL senior high students while three are college students. There were also a parent, two DLSL faculty, and one other unidentified passenger.
Many of the passengers were thrown out from the vehicle due to the force of the spinning vehicle.
According to Police Chief Inspector Wilfredo Sacmar of Regional Patrol Highway Unit (RHPU) of Region IV-A, the Nissan van with plate number NDS 6161 was traveling on the southbound lane of STAR Tollway of Brgy. San Andres, Malvar, Batangas at around 6:33 a.m. when the accident happened.
Contrary to previous local news reports, the van was headed to Lipa City from Santo Tomas City and not en route to Batangas City.
As of press time, three passengers remain in critical condition. Melanie Tolentino, the mother of Vivas, 40, was immediately sent to MMMC due to head fractures and internal bleeding.
Others in critical condition include DLSL first-year psychology student Rozel Gomez, 19, and College of Education, Arts, and Sciences (CEAS) and SHS faculty Christine Manansala, 28, who also incurred head injuries. They are currently receiving treatment at the Metro Lipa Hospital (MLH) and N.L. Villa Memorial Medical Center, respectively.
Al-Jane Yazon, 19, a first-year marketing student of DLSL, who was reported to be sitting near the door of the van, had undergone an operation at MMMC for injuries to his back at around 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, other SHS passengers including Chary Villanueva, 16, Juan Andrie Marquinez, 17, and Matthew Celmar, 17, together with SHS teacher Jaeson Jinn Oandazan, 33, were also admitted at MMMC and are still subject to medical observation for the next 24 hours.
Other injured victims including Grade 11 students Zyrinne Zulueta, 14, and Diana Rose Saludo 16, were confined at St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center while Alecx Danielle Avestruz, Danica Bagus, and Monique Celmar, together with an unidentified passenger remained at the C.P. Reyes Hospital for necessary treatment.
On the other hand, Christian Angelo Santos, 21, fifth-year Computer Engineering student remained at the MLH due to an injured shoulder while Mark Chester Navaliza, 18, another SHS student, was initially brought to MMMC but has already been discharged from the hospital.
Danilo Bagus, father of one of the victims recounted the story of his daughter, “Nakatulog siya […] narinig niya na lang [na may] biglang pumutok. Nagising siya tapos pumalikot na raw ‘yung van.”
In the official statement released through the social media accounts of DLSL, the institution immediately sent its emergency medical services team to assist in the rescue operations.
The Highway Patrol Group is currently conducting an extensive investigation to determine who will be held accountable for the accident as well as the legality of the van as a passenger vehicle.
“Hindi pa natin ma-confirm kung kolorum ito or hindi unless mayroon tayong documentation… from the proper authority na nag-i-issue ng mga [certification kung] pampasada and private [ang] vehicle which is the LTFRB and LTO,” said Police Chief Inspector Sacmar.
With reports from Ranzel Vergara Dimaculangan, Gianne Victoria De Castro, Ericka Nieto, Arn Alinea, Vien Dimaculangan and Jennylyn Garcia