Priest killed in Leyte post-typhoon road clearing

Health Protection

An elderly priest was killed on Monday when hit by a falling coconut tree during a post-typhoon roadside clearing operation in Matalom, Leyte.

Police identified the victim as Rizacion Ybañez, 63, priest of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, and resident of Sta. Fe village in Matalom town.

Matalom police station investigator, Staff Sgt. David Santiago, Jr., said in a phone interview Tuesday that the victim was driving a single motorcycle when asked to stop for a few minutes since someone was cutting a coconut tree partially damaged by Typhoon Odette.

“All vehicles were flagged down by personnel involved in clearing operations, but when Ybañez noticed that two motorcycle riders insisted to pass by, he followed them, but unfortunately, he failed to escape from the falling tree,” Santiago said in a phone interview.

It took about 30 minutes before concerned citizens reported the incident to the local police station, according to Santiago.

The victim, declared dead upon arrival at the nearest community hospital, was heading to one of the villages in Matalom town to distribute relief goods to fellow church members.

The landowner decided to cut the partially damaged tree since it poses danger to motorists.

Police identified the chainsaw operator as Ricardo Pal, 59, also a resident of Sta. Fe village.

Pal and his helper, Edgardo Reriorato, 35, are now detained at the Matalom police station.

Three weeks after the typhoon, roadside clearing operation is still ongoing in typhoon-ravaged communities in Leyte and Southern Leyte provinces.

The Philippine Coconut Authority reported that there are 10,002,709 toppled or sheared coconut trees by Typhoon Odette in two provinces when it crossed Mindanao and Visayas on Dec. 16, 2021.

Source: Philippines News Agency