12 people, including 11 cruise passengers, were killed in a bus crash in Mexico’s Yucatán region. Officials said the tour bus flipped on a two-lane highway in what is being called one of the deadliest accidents involving a cruise ship excursion. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but authorities suspect the driver was speeding.
According to new sources, the crash occurred after 9:30 a.m. on December 19. 27 tourists bought shore excursion tickets to see the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben. The tourists were passengers aboard the Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Equinox. Both ships are owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which is based in Miami, Florida.
The Celebrity Equinox, which carries 2,850 passengers, departed from Miami on December 16 for a seven-night cruise in the Caribbean with stops at Costa Maya, Cozumel and the Cayman Islands. The Serenade of the Seas, which carries 2,490 passengers, sailed from Fort Lauderdale on December 15 for a seven-night cruise to Key West, Honduras, and Cozumel.
Moises Behar, 49, and his son, David Behar, 15, were among the survivors of the crash that killed his wife, Anna Behar, 46; his younger son, Daniel Behar, 11; and his mother-in-law, Fanya Shamis, 78, of Coconut Creek.
Moises Behar’s brother-in-law told news sources that Moises and his son were flown to a South Florida hospital by an Air Force plane. The father is recovering from broken ribs and the son was treated for a knee injury.
In addition to the members of the Behar family, five Americans, two Swedes, and a Canadian were among those killed. A local tour guide also died. Several passengers were injured in the crash, including four Brazilians, three Canadians, two Swedes, and four Americans. Seven others suffered minor injuries and didn’t seek treatment at a hospital. The bus driver was also reportedly injured and taken into police custody.
“Our hearts go out to all those involved in the bus accident in Costa Maya. We are doing all we can to care for our guests, including assisting with medical care and transportation,” Royal Caribbean said in a press release. “We are working with the local authorities to learn more about the accident.”
The passengers bought tickets for the excursion to Chacchoben from Royal Caribbean. Passengers are often encouraged to book tours arranged by the ship over private tours, especially in underdeveloped countries. Cruise lines usually have policies in place for vetting tour companies, but whether those vetting policies are thorough is a different story.
The Costa Maya crash is one of more than a dozen that have been reported in Caribbean ports of call over the past decade. In January 2016, one Royal Caribbean passenger was killed and several were injured in a bus crash in Jamaica. Another was killed in a crash in Dominica in November 2016, and in 2012, six passengers suffered injuries in a crash in St. Martin.
Cruise lines typically view tour operators that provide shore excursions as separate companies, but they almost always assume responsibility and settle out of court when passengers are injured or killed in a crash. Plaintiffs in such cases much file a suit in Miami within one year of the accident.