A bus driver told passengers "Hang on, I have no brakes" moments before his city bus plunged off a steep, winding road and down a 60-foot cliff, killing 19 people and injuring 22, authorities said.
The driver, Enrique Hernandez de Jesus, and two children were among the 14 bus occupants dead at the scene of the accident on the outskirts of this Baja California resort 65 miles south of the U.S. border.Five other passengers died at hospitals, Ensenada Fire Department spokesman Jose Luis Chavez said. Several of the injured passengers remained hospitalized Tuesday in critical condition, said Miroslava Cuellar, a spokeswoman for the city of Ensenada.
A mass funeral was planned for Wednesday, said Ramon Moreno, owner of the Moreno Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements.
Baja California transit office records show the vehicle had gone five years without a mechanical inspection and had no insurance as required by state law, Cuellar said.
"It is well-known that there is corruption between the transport companies and state transit officials," she said.
"Considering that these vehicles are allowed to operate without inspections and without insurance, and that drivers are paid not a salary but by the number of passengers they can cram into their buses, it is clear there is corruption."
Officials of Transportes Rojo y Blanco (Red and White bus line), the private transit company that owns the bus, declined comment Tuesday about the accident.
Chavez said he hoped the tragedy would prompt an investigation of Ensenada's public transportation system, which he said is "full of buses . . . (that are) coffins on wheels."
Most of the passengers on the bus bound for downtown were from a poor neighborhood of Ensenada, a city of 78,000 people, but it wasn't immediately known if any of the occupants were from outside of Mexico.
The accident occurred Monday as the bus traveled a steep, windy stretch of road four miles northeast of downtown.
The bus apparently was going too fast when Hernandez came to a sharp curve, causing the vehicle to careen over an embankment, Chavez said.