Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers, Including 8 Americans, Killed in Mexico Bus Crash

Video images from the scene showed the bus on its side in vegetation off the two-lane highway

A bus carrying cruise ship passengers on an excursion to Mayan ruins in southeastern Mexico flipped over on a narrow highway Tuesday, killing 11 travelers and their guide and injuring more than a dozen others, officials said, adding that early evidence shows the driver's negligence and possible speeding led to the crash.

Eight of the dead were from the United States, along with two Swedes, one Canadian and the bus' Mexican guide, according to a statement from the Quintana Roo state secretary of tourism's office released Wednesday. The passengers were guests on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships Celebrity Equinox and Serenade of the Seas.

Thirteen people are injured, including three Americans, four Brazilians, three Canadians, two Swedes (who have already been taken to the U.S.) and the bus driver, who was in custody, according to the statement.

Quintana Roo state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen said at a news conference Wednesday that a preliminary investigation indicates that the bus driver's negligence led him to lose control, and when he tried to return back to a narrow highway, the bus flipped, struck a tree and landed in vegetation along the roadside.

"Due to a lack of care the driver lost control of the bus' steering to the right, leaving the asphalt," Pech Cen said. He said signs found at the scene indicate the driver was going too fast.

The U.S. State Department had said multiple American citizens died in the crash and several were injured, but didn't provide numbers or their identities.

Three members of a family were killed and two more injured, one of their relatives told NBC News. Anna Behar, of Lorton, Virginia, and her 11-year-old son Daniel died, along with the child's 78-year-old grandmother, Fanya Shamis. Shamis lived in Coconut Creek, Florida, the relative told NBC News.

Late Wednesday, the North Mason School District in Washington state said Sand Hill assistant principal Jody Fritz was also killed in the crash.

A Fort Lauderdale Port spokeswoman said the Serenade of the Seas left Port Everglades last Friday for a weeklong trip. Port Miami spokeswoman Andria Muniz-Amador said Celebrity Equinox departed on Saturday and is scheduled to arrive at 4 a.m. this coming Saturday at the same port.

Video images from the scene of the crash showed the bus on its side in vegetation off the two-lane highway, with some survivors lying on the pavement while others walked around.

Martin said the crash occurred as the bus was on its way to the ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum.

"This is heartbreaking news and we're doing all we can to care for our guests," Celebrity Equinox Capt. Dimitrios Manetas said during a ship announcement for passengers. "We think it is also important for us – for all of us – here on the ship to look out for each other and be extra caring and considerate."

The Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office had reported that a child was among the fatalities.

It said in a statement Tuesday night that seven injured tourists had returned to their boat while 13 remained hospitalized, six of them in Tulum and seven in the city of Chetumal, near the Belize border.

The dead were being transferred to the forensics service for identification and subsequent notification of consular authorities.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Costa Maya Mahahual, the bus company involved, said in a statement that the bus was carrying tourists who had arrived at the coastal town of Mahahual aboard a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said news of the deadly incident is "heartbreaking."

"Our hearts go out to all those involved. We are doing all we can to care for our guests, including assisting with medical care and transportation," the company wrote on Twitter. "Our 27 guests were on a bus tour to the Chacchoben Ruins. We are working with the local authorities to learn more about the accident. We are doing all we can to help our guests."

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said any U.S. citizen affected by the incident may reach out to its Consular Service Center in Monterrey at +52-81-8047-3145.

"We express our condolences to all those affected. We are working with local authorities to determine if there were U.S. citizens on board," the agency wrote on Twitter. "The protection of U.S. citizens overseas is one of the highest priorities for [the State Department]."

Chris Brawley, a passenger on the Serenade of Seas, was on a bus headed to the same Mayan ruins when they came on the scene minutes after the accident.

It was shortly after 9 a.m. and a convoy of buses from the cruise port at Mahahual was headed to Chacchoben, he said. They had been on the road for about 35 to 40 minutes before the accident.

Brawly said the sky was clear and the road was dry and he didn't see any sign of any other vehicle being involved in the crash, which happened on a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulder or guardrail.

He said he did not see the crash, but "the bus clearly lost control somehow as there were swerve marks all over the road surface."

Brawley, of Haslet, Texas, said his ship departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday for a seven-day cruise. They were in Roatan, Honduras, on Monday and were scheduled to be in Cozumel on Wednesday.

CORRECTION (Dec. 20, 2017, 11:56 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misidentified the nationality of the Swedish victims of the crash.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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