Chile Bus Crash Kills 12 American Tourists
By EDUARDO GALLARDO, Associated Press Writer 28 minutes ago
A bus carrying cruise ship tourists plunged off a highway in northern Chile and tumbled 300 feet down a mountainside Wednesday, killing 12 Americans, U.S. and Chilean officials said.
Two other U.S. tourists and two Chileans — the driver and the tour guide — were hospitalized in serious condition, said Juan Carlos Poli, a city hall spokesman in the Pacific port city of Arica.
The tourists were returning to Celebrity Cruises' ship Millennium from an excursion to Lauca National Park when the driver swerved to avoid an approaching truck on a rugged highway near Arica, 1,250 miles north of Santiago, he said.
The bus went off the narrow highway and tumbled down a steep mountainside. Poli said the bus, which had a capacity of 16 passengers, "was totally destroyed."
"We have confirmed that all the victims were American citizens," Poli told the Associated Press by telephone from the hospital.
U.S. Embassy spokesman John Vance also confirmed the 12 U.S. deaths and said the embassy was sending consular officers to Arica.
The Millennium was docked in Arica, and the cruise line said the ship will remain there until further notice. It had been scheduled to leave for Peru early Thursday. The ship was carrying approximately 1,500 guests and 920 crew members.
The accident occurred 25 miles northeast of Arica on the road leading deep into the high Andes Mountains, connecting the coast with the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
The cruise line said it was flying family members of victims to Chile and sending a special assistance team to the ship to help its guests and crew.
"We continue to work with Chilean authorities and the U.S. Consulate in Santiago to assist our injured guests and the family members of those who died in this tragic accident," said Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises.
The ship is on a 14-night South American cruise. It departed Valparaiso, Chile, on March 19 and was scheduled to conclude in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 2.
Celebrity Cruises said the private tour was not affiliated with the cruise line.
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