Image: Mexico bus crash
AFP - Getty Images
Medics and rescue team members recover the bodies of victims of a bus accident in Nayarit, Mexico, on Saturday.
updated 9/15/2007 11:53:45 PM ET 2007-09-16T03:53:45

An American citizen and members of a family traveling to Mexico from the U.S. for a funeral were among at least 17 passengers who died in a bus crash in western Mexico over the weekend.

The bus was carrying 35 passengers from the resort city of Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara — including passengers of several detoured flights — when it went off a mountain road Saturday, bus company and government officials said.

The U.S. Embassy on Sunday confirmed that the crash killed U.S. citizen Jesus Morales Robles, 66, of Los Angeles.

Among the surviving passengers was Juan Antonio Quezada de la Cruz, who lives in Riverside, Calif., and was traveling with seven family members to attend their father's funeral in Guadalajara. A sister and a 1-year-old nephew died in the crash, he said.

"I don't know if the bus was going fast or if it skidded. I just felt a thud and tried to grab my nephew who was sitting next to me," he said from a hospital bed in Tepic, a city in the western state of Nayarit.

Quezada de la Cruz said several of his family members traveled from Phoenix to Tijuana, where they took a flight bound for Guadalajara.

Vallarta Plus bus company spokesman Daniel Rios said most of the passengers on the bus traveled first from Tijuana aboard a flight that was diverted to Puerto Vallarta, correcting his earlier statements that passengers involved in the crash came from a plane that left Phoenix on Friday.

The Tijuana flight was rerouted to Puerto Vallarta along with 17 others because of a fire at the Guadalajara airport.

The Nayarit prosecutor's office reported 17 dead: 13 men, three women and a 1-year-old child. The bus driver, identified as 28-year-old Madiel Coronado, was among the injured.

State Red Cross spokesman Miguel Langarica said at least 18 people were killed. The discrepancy could not immediately be explained.

Mexican authorities said four of the injured, including Quezada de la Cruz, were from Los Angeles and nearby Riverside, but did not give hometowns for the dead.

The crash occurred near the town of Compostela, about 120 miles from Guadalajara.

Alfredo Ortega, a spokesman with civil protection authorities in the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara are located, said the Guadalajara airport was temporarily shut down Friday after a plane coming from Cancun had to make an emergency landing.

Ortega said there were no reports of injuries from that plane. No one answered phone calls placed to the airport Sunday.

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