‘Bangungot’ kills Rico Yan; Claudine still in shock

- Ricky Lo -
Like a thief in the night, death paid Rico Yan a surprise visit early morning of Good Friday, March 29, at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, where he was on Holy Week vacation with five friends.

Rico turned 27 last March 14. The apparent cause of his death was cardiac arrest following a rupture of the pancreas, more commonly known as bangungot.

When informed about the tragic incident after lunch while on vacation with her family and friends in Subic, Rico’s former girlfriend Claudine Barretto — they broke up only three weeks earlier — went into a state of shock, unable to talk. She became hysterical and had to be sedated.

Two people who were with Rico on his last night on earth were his "Magandang Tanghali Bayan" co-host and "Whattamen" co-star Dominic Ochoa and Ochoa’s girlfriend, actress Janna Victoria.

According to Dominic, the group attended a party the night before and they went back to their cottage at around 2 a.m. Friday. The five friends slept together in one big room, with Rico occupying the loft because he was a snorer. At around 6 a.m., Rico was heard groaning but his companions dismissed it as mere snoring. When Dominic tried to wake Rico up at past 9, he found him stiff, lifeless.

A doctor friend who was also vacationing with his family in Dos Palmas, which had just reopened after it closed for several months following the kidnapping of foreign tourists by the Abu Sayyaf last year, applied CPR to Rico who was declared DOA (dead on arrival) when rushed to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Puerto Princesa City by motorboat.

"There was no premonition at all that he was going to die," sobbed Dominic, who has been like a brother to Rico and their MTB/Whattamen co-star Marvin Agustin, said to be vacationing in Bangkok, Thailand with his family. "During the party at a videoke bar, Rico enjoyed himself just like everybody else. He even sang 10 songs."

"Let us just pray for our friend. He passed away already and not us believe in (wild) speculations surrounding his death," Ochoa said, as he doused speculation that Yan died of an Ecstacy overdose.

Later that afternoon, Rico’s body was flown to Manila on a plane chartered by Meralco and ABS-CBN with which Rico was under contract. It was Rico’s father, Robby, and brother Bobby (co-host of the ABS-CBN early-morning daily show "Alas Singko y Media") who accompanied the body which was brought to Camp Crame for autopsy and later to the Arlington Funeral Chapel for embalming.

Bobby told an ANC Channel interviewer that he noticed some scratches on Rico’s face, so the family requested the autopsy to rule out foul play. Sources told The STAR that Rico was found to have died of cardiac arrest resulting from hemorrhagic pancreatis (commonly known as bangungot). The doctor said that Rico ate so much seafood during the party, downed with drinks.

Another source said that Rico’s heart was discovered to have "cracks" (lamat).

"I’d like to inform the public that the death of Rico Yan was of natural cause. According to doctors, it is an acute hemorrhagic pancreatis resulting in cardiac arrest. In short, he died in his sleep," said National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Edgar Aglipay, Yan’s uncle.

Aglipay said two medical teams, one from the PNP and the other from St. Luke’s Hospital, conducted an autopsy on Yan’s body shortly after arrival in Manila Friday night.

Most everybody reacted with shock to Rico’s sudden death. Only a month ago, his last movie with Claudine, Star Cinema’s Got 2 Believe, drew SRO crowds in theaters all over the country.

Reports said that when Claudine woke up yesterday morning, she was in a state of shock and had to be rushed to hospital.

Rico is one of four children, a grandson of former Foreign Affairs Secretary retired Gen. Manuel Yan. He finished BA Marketing/Management at La Salle five years ago when he was already in showbiz, launched by the ABS-CBN Talent Center as member of the Star Circle Batch 1 seven years ago.

His remains lie at a chapel in La Salle Greenhills, where he finished grade school and high school, but will be transferred maybe to the auditorium tomorrow to give his fans, friends and followers a chance to pay their last respects. From yesterday until tomorrow morning, Rico’s family requested non-family members and non-relatives for privacy and to let them have quiet moments with Rico for the last time.

Burial will be on Thursday, April 4, at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City after a 9 a.m. Mass. — With Christina Mendez

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