by Jimmy K. Laking
Nine people were seriously injured on Wednesday when a truck driven by a La Trinidad resident under the influence of liquor plowed through a barrier along the Halsema Highway in La Trinidad then collided head-on with a passenger jeepney, triggering a traffic jam that took hours to ease up.
In a report to the Benguet Provincial Police Office, Insp. Joseph Andres of the La Trinidad Police Station Traffic Management Section identified the culprit as Rogelio Saludes, 32, resident of Balili, La Trinidad, and driver of the Isuzu cargo truck with license plate RAH 519.
Andres said Saludes was heading towards Baguio City along Km. 4 at 10:15 a.m. when the truck crossed to the opposite lane and sideswiped the rear portion of a passenger vehicle.
In continuing motion, the truck hit the center rope causing the concrete barriers to fall, hitting the left portion of a passing Toyota cab.
Instead of stopping, the truck moved forward and sideswiped a Kawazaki motorcycle before it collided head-on with another passenger jeepney with license plate AYC 365. The truck pushed the jeepney towards the south before it stopped.
The two PUJs, the motorcycle, and the taxi were coming from direction of Baguio City when the wayward truck hit them without warning.
Those injured were identified as Candice Fletcher, 31, resident of Balili; Graciano De Guzman Jr., 55, resident of Km. 4, La Trinidad; Miream Katamen, 36, resident of Bontoc, Mountain Province; Rhea Camas, 21, resident of Amlimay, Buguias; Heron Gayaso, 20, resident of Poblacion, Buguias; Mariano Bastian, 21, resident of Tinoc, Ifugao; Oliver Way-as, 21, resident of Ambiong, La Trinidad; Divina Killia-en, 23, resident of Balili, La Trinidad; and Gilbert Gano, 35, resident of Asin Road, Baguio City.
Fletcher, De Guzman, and Katamen were rushed to the Pines City Doctors Hospital while the rest were rushed to the Benguet General Hospital.
Fletcher, De Guzman, and Way-as were still confined at the PCDH for further observation while the rest were sent home by attending physicians after they were treated of minor injuries.
Traffic investigators said the presence of the concrete barriers prevented the truck from plowing into establishments where it could have caused more damage to life and property.
The truck driver is currently under detention at the police station for safekeeping.
Andres said the owner of Isuzu cargo truck has already started negotiating with the involved parties for a possible out of court settlement. The truck is registered under the name of Reymund Barrios of Palmaville Subdivision in Puguias, La Trinidad.