By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
RURAL Transit of Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) said it has started an investigation into a fire that destroyed one of its buses in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, on Sunday afternoon.
According to a police report, the bus was on its way to Kibawe town at around 1:40 pm when the driver heard a sound emanating from the vehicle’s engine, and then he saw smoke. He said he stepped on the brakes and then told his 13 passengers to step down.
A few minutes later, the bus was in flames, consuming first the bus seats’ leather upholstery.
RTMI-JR Borja extension branch operations manager Jay Galindo said the prompt action of the driver and the bus aide prevented any loss of life.
“When the driver saw the smoke, he stopped the bus right away and led the passengers out of the bus,” Galindo said.
“All the 13 passengers are safe and accounted for. No one was injured in the fire,” he said, adding that the Malaybalay fire station quickly responded and put out the flames of the burning bus.
He added the passengers were transferred to another bus en route to the same destination.
Galindo said the bus driver and his aide, who were not identified, would be the first to be interviewed by the RTMI management so they could shed light on what really happened.
Asked if he suspected arson, Galindo said the bus company has ruled out that possibility and would be focusing on the mechanical aspect of the incident.
In a separate interview, Malaybalay city police investigator S/Sgt. Benjie Bahayanan said that based on their initial investigation, there was no foul play.
RTMI is one of the biggest players in the mass transport sector in the Southeast Asia.
According to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Northern Mindanao, the Yanson group operates about 2,300 buses in Mindanao alone, plying almost all the major routes on the island.
But recently, the company was dragged into a crisis involving the Yanson siblings and their mother following the takeover of the company’s leadership.