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Eleven die and 37 are injured when Loja-bound bus crashes south of Cuenca

In the third deadly Ecuadorian bus accident in three weeks, a bus carrying pilgrims to the shrine of the Virgin of Cisne near Loja overturned south of Cuenca early Saturday morning, killing 11 and injuring 37. According to a survivor, the bus was passing another vehicle on a curve at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control.

Investigators examine bus wreckage Saturday morning. (El Telegrafo)

The accident occurred about 4:15 a.m. 21 miles south of Cuenca on highway E35, near the turnoff to Jima.

On August 12, a bus carrying Guayaquil football fans home from Cuenca crashed in the Cajas Mountains, killing 12, and on August 14, a Colombian bus loaded with illegal drugs overturned east of Quito, killing 24.

According to the emergency response service ECU 911, firemen, police and IESS medics worked for almost two hours early Saturday to remove the dead and injured from the bus wreckage. “It was terrible,” said a fireman who was one of the first on the scene. “Survivors were trapped under bodies and because of the injuries we had work slowly. We heard the cries and screams of the injured as we worked.”

Firemen prepare to load the injured into an ambulance. (El Tiempo)

Because of the limited number of ambulances traveling between Cuenca hospitals and the crash site, some of the injured were tended to at the scene for as long as two hours, police said.

Investigators from the ministry of transportation were among the first on the scene and began their accident investigation shortly after the dead and injured were taken away. The ministry suspended all operations of the company that operated the bus, Viajeros Internacional, pending conclusion of their work.

Among the initial findings by transportation officials was that the bus was carrying more passengers than legally allowed. Viajeros listed 42 on the travel register but police said 48 were on the bus at the time of the accident.

The driver survived the crash and left the scene, police said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.