Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chile: Sixteen People Killed, 22 Injured When Bus Containing Soccer Fans Plunges Off Cliff Near Tomé

According to El Mercurio, sixteen people died and 22 were injured in southern Chile at 0200 hours on Saturday (February 9) when a small bus carrying fans of a local soccer team skidded off the highway and plunged some 150 meters (490 feet) near the town of Tomé.

Among the dead was a one-year-old boy who was apparently the son of the bus driver, 38, who was also killed in the accident. The other fatalities were youths between ages 15-28, all men except for a 25-year-old woman.

The small bus, owned by the Trans O’Higgins company and hired by the fans themselves, was neither required to keep a list of passengers or provide seat belts, as buses of greater capacity are required to do.

COMMENT:  As I have said so often in the past, visitors and residents alike are reminded of the risk of commuter bus travel in Latin America, often in mountainous regions, where long-haul, often overnight bus travel is commonplace.

As a result, mass casualties often occur due to driver fatigue, substandard vehicular maintenance and less than rigorous traffic enforcement.

At the moment, authorities are attempting to determine whether the bus exceeded legal passenger occupancy

The bus was transporting 38 fans of the O’Higgins FC soccer club, who had been to Talcahuano to see their team’s 2-0 win over Huachipato in Chilean soccer-league play.

Meanwhile Chile’s professional soccer association declared in a communique an official period of mourning for the institution and announced that a minute of silence will be observed in all stadiums this weekend.

Tomé is a port city and community in the Biobío Region of Chile. It is bordered by Coelemu to the north, Ránquil and Florida to the east, Penco to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The local economy is based mainly on textile manufacturing and fishing industry.