Death toll in Mexico truck accident rises to 23

Road-Accident--At least 23 people, including a baby, were killed when a truck’s brakes failed and plowed into pilgrims in north-central Mexico, authorities said Thursday, as the driver fled the tragedy.

Another 22 people were injured following Wednesday afternoon’s accident on the main road of Mazapil, a small town of 16,000 people in the state of Zacatecas, officials said.

Some 200 pilgrims were heading toward a church when the dump truck, which was carrying tonnes of sand, slammed into the crowd. Most of the victims came from other towns and cities.

The vehicle lost its brakes, crossed a median strip and flipped on its side, Zacatecas chief prosecutor Leticia Catalina Soto Acosta told the Televisa channel.

“We have a total of 23 dead, including 11 men, 12 women and a minor (girl) who was one year and two months old,” she said.

A civil protection official told AFP that 14 people died on the spot while nine others succumbed to their injuries at hospitals or while they were in ambulances.

Three of the 22 injured people are in serious condition.

“We hope that the number of dead will not rise,” the chief prosecutor said.

Officials had previously reported 16 deaths and 30 injuries.

The dump truck’s driver fled after the tragedy. Investigators were sent to the scene of the accident.

“We have some testimonies about who the driver was,” Soto Acosta said. “We are searching for him. We hope to have him detained in the next hours.”

The state prosecutor identified the company that owns the truck as Construcciones Industriales y Transportistas.

– ‘We are in mourning’ –

Local media showed pictures of the vehicle turned on its side next to the median strip, on a road flanked by small buildings.

A red pick-up truck that was apparently struck in the accident could be seen in front of the flipped dump truck.

A police car and an ambulance had escorted the pilgrims during the procession, according to press reports.

Catholics have been taking part in a pilgrimage to the centuries-old San Gregorio Magno church in Mazapil since Sunday as part of a celebration for a patron saint.

An employee who answered the phone at the 18th century church said people were shocked by the tragedy.

“We feel I great pain. We are in mourning for our pilgrim brothers. These are normally celebration days and the church is empty,” said Cecilia, who declined to give her full name.

Religious processions through roads and towns are common throughout the year in Mexico, a fervently Roman Catholic country of nearly 120 million people.

People go on pilgrimages by foot, bicycle or car. The biggest event is in Mexico City, where millions visit the Virgin of Guadalupe church every year.

Most of the victims of Wednesday’s accident came from other towns.

Most were from the Santa Rosa community, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Mazapil, Soto Acosta said.

Five others traveled from the industrial city of Monterrey in Nuevo Leon state and three more were from neighboring Coahuila state.

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