Tragedy occurs on the eve of village fiesta
Eight-year old Sam Alia Monteron joined other kids in watching some people set off a fireworks display near the chapel and the barangay hall of Purok 3, San Miguel, Cordova town when tragedy struck.
One of the firecrackers called a “bombshell” flew straight into Sam, exploding on his stomach.
He was rushed by his father Bryaner to the Lapu-Lapu City Hospital, where he died on Monday evening.
Instead of celebrating the feast of the barangay’s patron saint, St. Michael Archangel, yesterday, the house of Sam’s grandmother held a wake.
The Police Regional Office (PRO-7) ordered an investigation into the incident (see next story).
“Dako unta, sir, pero wala naman siya. Ingon gani siya pag modako siya gusto siyang mahimong seaman parehas sa iyang uncle (He could have grown up but he is gone. He told me he wanted to be a seaman like his uncle when he grew up),” Sam’s mother Michelle Alia said in a radio interview.
Sam was a Grade 1 pupil and the eldest of four siblings.
His 33-year-old mother Michelle is a housewife while his father Bryaner, 29, works as a mason.
The fireworks display was set up just as Mass ended in the chapel at 8 p.m.
Sam was playing with other kids when the fireworks display started and they went to the site to watch.
Sam and the other children were 15 to 20 meters away from the base of the fireworks display near the chapel when the accident occurred.
Michelle said she, her common-law partner Bryaner and their children were at a nearby street when she told him to look for Sam and their seven-year-old child.
She said she heard a loud explosion and feared for her children.
Michelle said she then heard some people say that a boy named Samsam was hit by a firecracker.
Michelle cried when she recalled that Sam was still talking to her and Bryaner when he was rushed to the hospital.
‘Don’t leave mama’
Michelle said she told him to be strong for his younger siblings.
“Ingon ko niya, ‘anak ayaw biyai si mama, ayaw biyai imong mga manghod.’ Ingon pa siya nga ‘Oo’ (I told him, ‘son, don’t leave your mama, don’t leave your siblings behind,’ and he told me ‘Yes’),” an emotional Michelle recalled.
At the hospital, Sam was already weak and shouted “papa” while the doctors tried to administer oxygen to him. He died a few minutes later.
P03 Alex Noron of the Cordova police precinct said the fireworks display was contracted for P10,000 but it was unclear who arranged it.
SFO4 Mario Randy Cuizon, chief of operations of the Cordova fire station, said they didn’t issue a permit for the fireworks display.
He said the owner of the firecrackers should pay P300 before they issue a permit for its use.
Had the owner filed an application for permit, Cuizon said their personnel would have inspected the area to ensure that the fireworks display will be done in open space far from homes and should be 100 feet away from spectators.
The firecrackers were owned by a certain Juliet Wahing, a former resident of barangay San Miguel who now lives in Babag 2, Lapu-Lapu City.
The area is known for housing manufacturers of fireworks. Noron said Wahing claimed to be a licensed firecracker manufacturer.
But it was learned that her license expired last year.
She was also unable to show her license to display to the police.
Wahing immediately turned over to the police two of her workers identified as 29-year-old Joseph Berdin and 31-year-old Jason Tuquib who were in charge of staging the fireworks display.
The two men used firecrackers called bombshell and Thunder for the display.
“Aksidente ra gyud to ang nahitabo kay maayo man gyud to namo pagbutang. Ambot nganong natumba,” (It was really an accident. We set it up properly but I don’t know why it fell),” Tuquib told police.
The two men were eventually released from detention at the Cordova police precinct.
Noron said while most of the firecrackers blew upwards and created sparks, others shot forward horizontally, hitting Sam and a nearby house.
The house owned by Narciso Ochea sustained damages in the second floor.
Noron said they will coordinate with the Firearms Explosives Security Service Agency and Guards Supervisory Section (FESSAGS) to determine who is liable for the accident.
FESSAGS issues licenses for firecracker manufacturers.
Noron said the fireworks display was held in a small open space near the chapel and the barangay hall.
Noron said FESSAGS should determine if the firecrackers used contained the allowable amount of gunpowder or pyrotechnic powder.
Noron said Sam’s parents could file charges of reckless imprudence against the two men but they and Wahing were scheduled to meet yesterday afternoon for a settlement.
Michelle said she and her partner decided not to press charges, provided Wahing will pay for the medical and burial expenses and other liabilities. She said they plan to bury Sam on October 2.