Approximately twenty people have been injured and twelve killed, including eight Americans, in a Mexican tour bus crash in the Yucatan Peninsula. No other vehicles appear to have been involved in the incident, in which the bus left the roadway and flipped over onto its side.
Fatal Mexican Tour Bus Crash
On December 19, 2017, at approximately 9:00 a.m., a bus carrying 31 passengers was traveling from the coastal village of Mahahual to Chacchoben, a Mayan archaeological site in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The bus had reportedly been traveling for about 35 to 40 minutes when, for reasons yet to be fully determined, it lost control, ending up on its side in a wooded area.
Twelve passengers were killed, including eight Americans, one Canadian, two Swiss nationals, and the tour’s Mexican guide. An additional twenty were reportedly injured.
Among the passengers were 27 guests from two cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas and the Celebrity Equinox. Both ships had arrived in the Caribbean cruise port of Costa Maya on the date of the incident and later departed on that same day. Seven of the injured passengers left with the ships, while others remain hospitalized in Tulum and Chetumal.
The two cruise ships are controlled by the same parent company, Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The tour bus company is Costa Maya Mahahual.
Speeding Possible Cause of Crash
Officials are still investigating the crash, though preliminary evidence suggests that the bus’s driver may have been speeding.
One passerby noted that the sky was clear and the road was dry. There also appears to have been no sign of another vehicle involved in the crash, which occurred on a narrow, two-lane roadway without a guardrail or a shoulder. Though the witness claimed not to have seen the crash itself, he speculated that the bus “clearly lost control” because there were swerve marks on the road.
The driver of the bus has been hospitalized for his injuries, and he reportedly could face criminal charges.
Lawsuit Filed in Similar Incident
This tragic accident happened very recently, so it may be too early to tell whether the injured parties will pursue litigation or, if they do, against whom. However, a lawsuit filed only two days later against the same cruise company for a similar incident may hint at future legal actions taken by the victims of the Mexican tour bus crash.
On December 21, 2017, a Miami-based maritime law firm specializing in cruise ship litigation filed suit against Celebrity Cruises, whose parent company is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The suit was filed on behalf of six cruise ship passengers, all from the United States, who were “critically injured” in a February 2017 tour bus crash in New Zealand. The tour bus had been carrying 32 passengers from the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship. The bus reportedly veered into the opposite lane of traffic, smashed into an oncoming vehicle, and plummeted 100 feet down an embankment.
The lawsuit, which refers to the bus trip as a “cruise-sponsored shore excursion,” alleges that Celebrity Cruises improperly represented the bus company as being of the highest quality, even though it had a public history of safety issues. For example, the company had been involved in an earlier incident – attributed to an incompetent mechanic and faulty brakes – that resulted in criminal prosecution.
For its part, Celebrity Cruises has argued that shore excursion companies are independent contractors, so the cruise line has no responsibility for their actions. The plaintiffs’ attorneys have countered that passengers are not made aware of this fact and are instead led to believe that shore excursion companies are operated by, partnered with, or agents of Celebrity Cruises.