Royal Caribbean cruise passengers killed in Mexico bus crash

Posted at 9:12 AM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-20 09:12:46-05

A bus carrying cruise ship passengers on an excursion to Mayan ruins in southeastern Mexico flipped over on a narrow highway Tuesday, killing 11 travelers and their guide and injuring about 20 others, officials said.

Seven Americans and two Swedes were among the injured, said Vicente Martin, spokesman for the Quintana Roo state Civil Defense agency. Authorities had not yet established the nationalities of the dead.

The passengers were guests on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships Celebrity Equinox and Serenade of the Seas.

A Fort Lauderdale Port spokeswoman said the Serenade of the Seas left Port Everglades last Friday for a week-long trip. Port Miami spokeswoman Andria Muniz-Amador said Celebrity Equinox departed on Saturday and is scheduled to arrive at 4 a.m. this coming Saturday at the same port.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that 78-year-old Fanya Shamis, a resident of Coconut Creek, is among those killed in the crash, according to family members - who also say that her 11-year-old grandchild may have also been killed, however officials have not confirmed that information.

Video images from the scene of the crash showed the bus on its side in vegetation off the two-lane highway, with some survivors lying on the pavement while others walked around.

Martin said the crash occurred as the bus was on its way to the ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum.

"This is heartbreaking news and we're doing all we can to care for our guests," Celebrity Equinox Capt. Dimitrios Manetas said during a ship announcement for passengers. "We think it is also important for us – for all of us – here on the ship to look out for each other and be extra caring and considerate."

The Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office reported that the fatalities were 11 tourists, including one child, and a Mexican tour guide.

It said in a statement Tuesday night that seven injured tourists had returned to their boat while 13 remained hospitalized, six of them in Tulum and seven in the city of Chetumal, near the Belize border.

The dead were being transferred to the forensics service for identification and subsequent notification of consular authorities.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Costa Maya Mahahual, the bus company involved, said in a statement that the bus was carrying tourists who had arrived at the coastal town of Mahahual aboard a cruise ship.

In addition to the tourists, a guide and driver were aboard the bus, the company said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said news of the deadly incident is "heartbreaking."

"Our hearts go out to all those involved. We are doing all we can to care for our guests, including assisting with medical care and transportation," the company wrote on Twitter. "Our 27 guests were on a bus tour to the Chacchoben Ruins. We are working with the local authorities to learn more about the accident. We are doing all we can to help our guests."

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said any U.S. citizen affected by the incident may reach out to its Consular Service Center in Monterrey at +52-81-8047-3145.

"We express our condolences to all those affected. We are working with local authorities to determine if there were U.S. citizens on board," the agency wrote on Twitter. "The protection of U.S. citizens overseas is one of the highest priorities for [the State Department]."

Chris Brawley, a passenger on the Serenade of Seas, was on a bus headed to the same Mayan ruins when they came on the scene minutes after the accident.

It was shortly after 9 a.m. and a convoy of buses from the cruise port at Mahahual was headed to Chacchoben, he said. They had been on the road for about 35 to 40 minutes before the accident.

Brawly said the sky was clear and the road was dry and he didn't see any sign of any other vehicle being involved in the crash, which happened on a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulder or guardrail.

He said he did not see the crash, but "the bus clearly lost control somehow as there were swerve marks all over the road surface."

Brawley, of Haslet, Texas, said his ship departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday for a seven-day cruise. They were in Roatan, Honduras, on Monday and were scheduled to be in Cozumel on Wednesday.