9 dead, 3 hurt as van crashes

Nine passengers  of a commuter van were killed and three others were critically injured when their vehicle crashed into a tree at the national highway in Cotabato early Saturday morning.

Police  said nine  casualties  were passengers of a D4D van (LHM 995)  bound for Kabacan, Cotabato from Davao City when the driver Brendo Singco lost  control,  hitting a tree along Barangay West Patadon, Matalam at 2:45 a.m.

Cotabato PNP provincial director Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum said eight of the victims died on the spot while another died at the Babols Hospital in Matalam.

Of the nine victims, four were identified:  Nor Asan Canda, 28, of P’lang village, Kabaca, North Cotabato; Lyle Rudolf Echevarria Octaviano, 28, government employee of Aleosan, North Cotabato; Juliet Debalusan, 40, of Boulevard, Davao City and Haydee Maaya of Poblacion 2, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Two of the three wounded victims were identified as Abel Debalosan, 33 and Solida Aceroque, 55.

Matalam chief of police Chief Inspector Elias Colonia said the van driver, Brendo Singco,  might have fallen slept behind the steering wheel while traversing the national highway between Davao City and Kabacan town.

The passengers said they  sensed the driver  was dozing off  in the driver seat, prompting them to yell  at  and awaken him, Colonia said quoting the  wounded passengers.

The survivors also said the driver was traveling fast at 130 kph.

The  vehicle  zigzagged before hitting a mahogany tree beside the highway,  the survivors said.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene of accident and pulled the victims out while the driver hurriedly left and was now the object of police manhunt.

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