Photo: Scene of bus accident
The bus fire in northern Colombia over the weekend that killed 32 children and injured 20 others left one family grieving for 13 of its children killed or hurt by the flames, media reports said.
The accident occurred on Sunday near Fundacion, a town on the Atlantic coast, where the bus carrying 52 people burst into flames.
A woman who identified herself as Merly Castro told Canal RCN news that 13 of her relatives, including children, siblings, nephews and cousins, either died, were injured or are missing in the accident.
The Castro family said five of its members burned to death, six are hospitalized and two others, Merly’s children, are missing.
The fire started as the children, accompanied by just two adults, were returning to Fundacion, a town in Magdalena province, after attending a celebration at a pentecostal church.
The children traveling on the bus ranged in age from 2 to 12.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the accident and President Juan Manuel Santos, who visited Fundacion on Sunday, said measures would be taken to prevent similar accidents in the future.
The president said during the promotion ceremony at the General Santander Police Academy in Bogota that he asked Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon and National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Palomino to take steps so the national government can play a direct role in regulating the operation of such vehicles.
The bus had not been certified for operation since 2012, was overloaded and the driver poured gasoline on the carburetor, apparently sparking the blaze, Transportation Minister Cecilia Alvarez said.
Driver Jaime Gutierrez Ospina was arrested and Manuel Salvador Ibarra, a United Pentecostal Church of Colombia member who apparently hired the bus, faces various charges, prosecutors said.
The two men face manslaughter and possibly more serious charges since the driver is a mechanic who knew the dangers he was exposing the children to, prosecutors said.