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14 Killed, 21 Injured in Baja Bus Crash

January 4, 2010 – 14 people died and 21 others were injured early Saturday when a bus carrying agricultural workers and their families plunged more than 300 feet down an embankment off a curving mountain road about 70 miles east of Tijuana.

The fatalities were 11 adults, 2 children and an infant, according to the Baja California Attorney General’s Office. The impact left the bus split in two.

Drivers who witnessed the 5 a.m. accident along Highway 2D in the mountain pass of La Rumorosa helped carry survivors back to the road, then waited for rescue vehicles, a statement said.

A 13-year-old survivor told authorities that one of the drivers of the bus had said that the brakes were failing, and that they would seek help from a mechanic when they reached Mexicali.

An initial report on the crash by Mexico’s Federal Highway Patrol said the bus was speeding in a downhill lane before daybreak, leading the driver to lose control. It veered left, then right, rolling over the embankment, the report said.

The accident took place on a stretch of road near the U.S. border between Tecate and Mexicali that drops precipitously about 4,000 feet from the Sierra Juarez to the Baja California desert. The area is known for its dramatic vistas and dangerous curves.

Alfredo Escobedo, Baja California’s civil protection chief, said the accident occurred near the end of the descent.

Ownership of the bus remained unclear Saturday, said José Manuel Yepiz, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. Authorities originally had determined that it belonged to a company called Tierra del Sol, but company representatives were alleging that the vehicle had been sold, he said.

Yepiz said it would be up to Mexico’s federal Ministry of Communications and Transportation to determine whether the vehicle’s papers were in order.

The passengers were Mixtec Indian day laborers and their families traveling from San Quintin, an agricultural area south of Ensenada, to another agricultural area in Sinaloa state, outside the capital of Culiacan. They had left Rancho El Papalote in San Quintin about 7 p.m. Friday, the statement said.

The injured were being treated Saturday at public hospitals in Mexicali.

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