By Rolando O. Borrinaga
They were escorting a dead fellow villager to his final resting place in the town cemetery. But along the way, four other people died after a ten-wheeler dump truck sideswiped a funeral entourage in a mountain village here.
The mourners, mostly residents of Barangay Capiñahan, 10 kms east of the town, were riding on motorcycles, a government truck and a few other vehicles that were tailing a funeral car carrying the remains of Juliano Payos, a lay minister, when the accident happened around 8:45 a.m. last Thursday, July 23.
The entourage was slowly descending a steep and curved strip of highway around a hill one kilometer outside the barangay when it was sideswiped by the overtaking truck.
Bernard Villarin, 30, driver of the truck owned by Tuscan Structures, a construction company involved in some public works project in the province, said he lost control of the brakes during his attempt to overtake the entourage. He is now detained at the municipal jail.
The truck overshot the road at the bottom of the hill within seconds of the accident and nosedived into a rock at the bottom of a shallow creek, its cargo bay and rear wheels slanting up the embankment.
Laura Bueno, the resident government midwife in Capiñahan, told the media that two persons died on the spot and two others were dead on arrival at the Biliran Provincial Hospital. She said the entourage was composed mostly residents of her barangay.
The truck first struck a motorcycle driven and owned by Wilfredo Bernal, who was later declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Marcial Payos, 52, brother of the dead person they were burying, was killed on the spot after his motorcycle was struck and run over by the wayward truck. Cleofe Narrido, 54, a rider of the same vehicle, was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. A third rider, Donya Bangcuyo, 37, is now undergoing treatment for a broken arm and shoulder, wounds and bruises also at the hospital.
Reynaldo Navarro, 32, was also killed on the spot after his motorcycle was similarly struck by the truck. His wife, Emma Delda Navarro, who rode on the same vehicle, is now being treated for injuries.
“I heard shouts of warning to go to a safe side of the road, but things happened so fast. When I looked back, I saw two of our motorcycle-riding companions already dead and their motorcycles torn to pieces,” said midwife Bueno.
She said she had contacted the owner of the dump truck, who promised to shoulder the burial expenses for the fatalities and the hospital expenses for the injured. (With a report from Philippine Information Agency – Biliran)