SEVEN persons, who were nurses and doctors, died after the van they were riding crashed into a mahogany tree on Saturday morning, January 20, in Barangay Legaspi, Alegria town, Cebu.
Senior Inspector Efren Diaz Jr., the town police chief, said the driver, Gilbert dela Cruz, admitted he fell asleep during the trip. Dela Cruz, a resident of Guiwanon, Argao, was arrested after the incident.
He was taken to Badian District Hospital for medical treatment and drug testing.
“He denied he is a drug user, but he claimed he lacked sleep,” Diaz said in a phone interview. Three injured passengers were brought to a private hospital in Cebu City.
Six passengers were declared dead on arrival at Reinhard Wirtgen Memorial Hospital in Barangay Poblacion, Alegria, while another passenger died in Malabuyoc District Hospital.
Dela Cruz said he had slept for an hour before he was hired by the victims, who were going to Camiguin on Monday for a medical mission.
He had been driving for the past four days and he lacked sleep. The police official said the victims were Filipinos who have US citizenship.
There were other medical practitioners who rode on a separate van. Diaz said the victims arrived in Cebu at 3 a.m. Saturday, January 20, and went to Oslob for whale shark watching.
They were on their way to Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu when they met the accident. The mahogany tree stands near the barangay hall of Legaspi.
Some residents told the police that the van was traveling fast. Diaz said the fatalities were possibly sleeping when the vehicle crashed.
He refused to give the names of the fatalities and the injured as their respective families have not yet been informed.
“The survivors who were interviewed by my personnel were still in shock. They gave incoherent answers,” he said in Tagalog.
Dela Cruz will face complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries. (By Kevin Legaspi, SunStar Cebu; Photos by Benjie Campo)