BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A train plowed into a double-decker bus at a rail crossing in Argentina early on Sunday, killing 17 people and injuring about 65, local officials said.
Several witnesses said the bus driver drove through the crossing’s lowered safety barriers and ignored stop signs, the Clarin newspaper reported on its Web site. Others said the train sounded its horn in warning, but the bus failed to stop.
“It seems the driver of the bus passed when the barrier was down and the train cut the bus in half. ... It was inconceivably imprudent,” Daniel Scioli, the provincial governor, told local television at the crash scene.
Television pictures showed the train partially derailed, with the wreckage of the bus lying alongside, torn in half.
Suitcases, clothing and twisted seats littered the scene of the accident, which took place just after 2:30 a.m. about 130 miles south of the capital Buenos Aires.
Among the dead were two children, local media reported. A police spokesman in Dolores said 11 people were still hospitalized late on Sunday.
The train had been on its way from the capital to the seaside resort town of Mar del Plata, while the bus was returning from the Atlantic coast. Some of the victims were coming back from holidays.
The drivers of the train and the bus survived the accident. They were held for questioning, the media reports said.
Crash survivors and their families spoke of confusion and panic in the moments after the crash.
“I was getting settled down to sleep, and I heard a loud bang, a violent jolt,” one train passenger, identified only as Alejandro, told local television.
“(There were) lots of cries, everything was dark ... lots of children on their own, people badly hurt,” he said.
Roberto Capiel, a health official in the town of Dolores, said some of the victims were “in a very serious condition.”
“There are injuries among the people who were traveling on the train, but the most serious are those who were on the bus,” one doctor said.
The number of road accidents normally rises during Argentina’s busy holiday period during the southern hemisphere’s summer.
An increase in accidents, many involving long-distance buses, in the last few years has drawn widespread public concern and the government sent a road safety plan to Congress last month in an effort to improve general driving standards.
With additional reporting by Nicolas Misculin, editing by Todd Eastham