A tragic bus collision in central Mexico has left at least 19 people dead and 22 others injured. The accident occurred in the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday on a highway in the state of Puebla, about 75 miles from Mexico City.
According to officials, a bus carrying pilgrims to a religious site and a freight truck loaded with cooking oil collided head-on along the dark, two-lane highway. The force of the collision caused both vehicles to catch fire, trapping passengers inside.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene to pull victims from the burning wreckage. Photos show the bus reduced to a tangle of smoldering, twisted metal. The truck lies on its side, its cargo of cooking oil spilled across the highway.
Rescue workers formed lines to comb the area looking for survivors. Nearby residents also joined in the search efforts. In total, firefighters, police officers, and volunteers managed to pull 41 people alive from the crash site.
Tragically, at least 19 people were killed, including the driver of the bus. Officials say most of the dead were bus passengers traveling to the Catholic shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The 22 injured victims were transported to hospitals in the area. Five are reported to be in very serious condition, suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation. The ages of the victims have not yet been released, but the bus was carrying mostly adult pilgrims.
Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the deadly collision. However, early reports suggest the bus driver may have fallen asleep and veered into oncoming traffic. The truck driver also appears to have made an abrupt lane change prior to impact.
Excess speed is not believed to be a factor, as both vehicles were driving below the highway’s 75 mph speed limit. Weather conditions were also clear at the time, though the pre-dawn darkness may have impacted visibility for the drivers.
This region of Mexico’s highway system is notoriously dangerous, earning it the nickname “Highway of Death.” In 2021 alone, over 150 people were killed in accidents along this same stretch of road.
Reasons for the high accident rate include poor lighting, lack of median barriers, and lax enforcement of traffic laws. Additionally, long-distance buses and freight trucks share the narrow highway, creating hazards with their size differential and weight.
In response to this latest deadly crash, Mexican authorities have vowed to improve safety measures along the highway. Some proposed changes include expanding the road to add a median, installing barriers to physically separate oncoming traffic, and deploying more police to enforce speed limits and reckless driving laws.
Citizen groups are also calling for enhanced bus and truck driver training, restrictions on long driving shifts without rest, and upgraded vehicle maintenance requirements. Safety advocates say real change is long overdue, as tragic bus crashes have become far too common on Mexican roads.
While the cause is still under investigation, this heartbreaking accident highlights the need for road safety improvements across Mexico’s highway system. As families mourn the loss of loved ones, officials are hopeful that measures can be enacted to prevent similar disasters in the future.