A bus plunged into a deep river canyon in northwestern Guatemala today, leaving at least 44 people dead, according to officials. An additional 46 people were injured and taken to hospitals, says Mario Cruz, a spokesman for the volunteer fire department in the area. At the accident site, medical personnel were conducting autopsies on the dead, which showed multiple injuries. Cruz says about 90 people were aboard the Guatemala City-bound bus, which had an official capacity of 54 passengers. The dead included at least three babies.
The bus fell into a river at the bottom of the 600-foot canyon around 8:15am in the town of San Martin Jilotepeque, apparently after the driver lost control on a curve. "From what we see, the bus crashed against a wall of rocks first and then fell into the cliff," says the local mayor. The area has mostly dirt roads that wind through steep mountains without guardrails or other safety measures.