Guatemala bus crash kills at least 43


The wreckage of a bus that plunged 230 feet after careening off a road in San Martin Jilotepeque, 40 miles west of Guatemala City, killing dozens of passengers.


Johan Ordonez

A bus crash in northwestern Guatemala on Monday killed 43 people and injured at least 40 more, rescue workers said.

The bus plunged off a cliff and into a deep river canyon with around 90 people on board — even though its official capacity was just 54, according to a spokesman for the volunteer fire department cited by the Asociated Press

At least three babies were among the dead.

More from GlobalPost: Drive-by shooting kills at least 11 in a rural town in Guatemala

The bus was heading from western Chimaltenango to the town of San Martin Jilotepeque, some 40 miles northwest of Guatemala City.

Local residents who rushed to the crash site helped rescuers pull victims from the wreckage.

"Some of the people were rescued with hydraulic equipment, and others were thrown (from the bus) at the time of the accident," said Mario Cruz, volunteer firefighter spokesman.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but the area around San Martin Jilotepeque is notorious for its winding dirt roads through steep mountains without guardrails or any other safety measures. 

The mayor of San Martin Jilotepeque, Otto Vielman, told the AP that it appeared that the bus had hit a wall of rocks before plummeting more than 330 feet off the road.

Speeding and carrying excessive passengers and cargo are the principal theories for the tragedy, says GlobalPost's senior South America correspondent, Simeon Tegel.

"Although the toll here is higher than usual, this kind of incident is hardly out of the ordinary on Latin America's killer roads, particularly in the Andes where small mistakes at the wheel usually leave little room for survivors," Tegel says.