By H. Nelson Goodson
May 20, 2014
Fundación, Magdalena, Colombia - On Sunday, authorities reported that 33 children between the ages 2 to 12 had died after an explosion caused by over flooding the bus carburetor with gasoline caught fire. The bus had stalled as it was transporting 52 children to their homes that had attended services at the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia in municipality of Fundación, department of Magdalena. The bus driver, Jaime Gutiérrez Ospina poured gasoline into the carburetor and then tried to start the bus, it exploded while children were still inside the bus. The rear exit was locked and couldn't be open. Ospina and 19 other passengers managed to escape the death trap.
The fatalities were attributed to fire that engulfed the bus, according to the preliminary forensic report. The bus was not up to code, wasn't insured, hadn't passed a mechanical test and had been out of circulation since 2012.
Investigators say, the bus was loaded to over capacity and was transporting 52 children.
During La F.M. radio interview with Pastor Roberto Padilla, it was learned that Manuel Ibarra, a member of the church contracted Ospina as a bus driver, who apparently had no driver's license because it expired. Padilla during the interview failed to take responsibility and blamed Ibarra for not making sure that Ospina was certified, licensed and had all the required paper work in order to use his bus to transport passengers on the road.
Pastor Padilla said, that a 20 member committee decides how the church operates and that Ibarra was responsible for making sure buses were available to transport members of the church and their children to and from the church.
Ibarra had a verbal agreement with Ospina, the authorities learned. Ibarra during a radio interview with La F.M. on Monday stated, that he didn't feel responsible for the childrens deaths. He has requested police protection.
Ospina was supposed to be paid $30,000 pesos ($15.60 U.S.) for gas and $20,000 pesos ($10.40 U.S.) for service.
Padilla went into hiding to protect himself from family members who lost their children that might want to take revenge. People in the rural town threaten to burn Padilla and Ibarra alive. He told La F.M. that police had requested for him to go into hiding while the investigation is ongoing.
Luis González, the head of the Colombian Attorney General's Office says that those held responsible are expected to be charged with aggravated manslaughter for the massive deadly toll on Sunday and are facing up to 40 years in prison, if convicted. Ospina is currently been held in custody.
The interview hosts from La F.M. criticized Pastor Padilla for his incompetence and lack of condolences to family members who lost children and taking responsibility for the 33 deaths.
Pastor Padilla's radio interview in Spanish at link: http://bit.ly/1o12UCD
Ibarra during a radio interview says, he wasn't responsible for the childrens deaths. Interview in Spanish at link: http://alturl.com/i6juk