12 cruise ship passengers dead after bus crashes in Mexico

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A tourist bus in Mexico’s southeastern Yucatan peninsula lost control and rolled over during an excursion to ancient ruins, leaving at least 12 dead and 18 injured on Dec. 19. Authorities said the bus was carrying citizens of the U.S., Brazil, and Sweden. (Reuters)

At least 12 people died after a bus carrying cruise ship passengers from South Florida to the Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over a highway early Tuesday.

The nationalities of those who died have not yet been confirmed. Among those injured were seven Americans and two citizens of Sweden, Quintana Roo state civil defense spokesman Vicente Martin said, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico is monitoring the situation.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said in an emailed statement that U.S. officials “are in contact with local authorities and are working with them to determine if there were U.S. citizens on board.”

“We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy.”

The cause of the accident, which occurred on the Mahahual-Cafetal highway in the southern part of Quintana Roo, is being investigated. The bus was heading to the ruins at Chacchoben, 110 miles south of Tulum, Mexican authorities said.

The bus carried 31 passengers, according to a statement from government officials in Quintana Roo. Among the passengers killed was a girl under 18, officials said. At least 18 people were injured.

Those injured were taken to hospitals in Bacalar, Chetumal and Tulum, officials said.

The majority of the passengers came from two ships belonging to Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises: the Celebrity Equinox and the Serenade of the Seas, which are both seven-night Caribbean cruises, the company said in a statement. About 23 passengers on the bus came from the Celebrity Equinox, which left Saturday from Port Miami, while four came from the Serenade of the Seas, which departed Friday from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

“Our hearts go out to all those involved in the bus accident in Costa Maya,” the company said. “We are doing all we can to care for our guests, including assisting with medical care and transportation.”

In addition to the passengers, the bus was carrying a driver and guide, Costa Maya Mahahual, the bus company involved, said in a statement to the AP.

The Chacchoben ruins are a popular tourist attraction, where people can explore ancient Mayan settlements, the earliest of which date to 1000 B.C., according to the site’s website. Discovered in 1942, the site comprises several temples in natural condition surrounded by luscious jungle and wildlife.

The bus was part of a fleet traveling to Chacchoben, said Chris Brawley, a Texas passenger on the Serenade of Seas who was on another bus to the ruins when they upon the accidents minutes after it occurred, according to the AP. It was shortly after 9 a.m. and they had been on the road for about 35 to 40 minutes.

The crash happened on a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulder or guardrail, he said, and it did not appear that any other vehicle was involved. The sky was clear.

While he didn’t see the crash, the “bus clearly losty control somehow,” evident by swerve marks on the road, he told the AP.

His ship had been in Roatan, Honduras on Monday and was scheduled to be in Cozumel Wednesday, he said.

A Cleveland passenger, Michael Schuenemeyer — who was on another bus that passed the accident an hour later — told the AP that the bus was “in pretty sad shape.”

More than a dozen cruise bus excursion accidents have happened near Caribbean ports of call over the last decade, Miami maritime lawyer James Walker of Walker & O’Neill told the Miami Herald.

In November 2016, a British tourist was killed in a bus crash in Dominica. Earlier that year, in January, a passenger was killed in a bus accident in Jamaica.  In 2012, several people were injured in a bus accident in St. Martin.

In 2006, 12 people died in a bus accident in Chile after visiting a national park — but their tour had been arranged privately, and was not among those the cruise line offered.

Video images from the scene showed the bus on its side off the two-lane highway, according to the AP. Some survivors lay on the pavement while others walked around.

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