IMAGE: ACCIDENT SCENE
Gustavo Amarelle  /  AP
Firemen work at the scene of a crash where a passenger train plowed into a bus near Dolores, Argentina, on Sunday.
updated 3/9/2008 10:59:54 AM ET 2008-03-09T14:59:54

A passenger train slammed into a double-decker bus at a rural Argentine rail crossing before dawn on Sunday, killing 18 people and injuring at least 47, authorities said.

The train was traveling from the Argentine capital to the Atlantic beach resort of Mar del Plata when the collision occurred near Dolores, about 125 miles south of Buenos Aires, the government’s Telam news agency said.

State police said 18 people died, revising an earlier tally that had put total deaths at 19. Some 47 people were hospitalized with injuries, and nine remained in critical condition, public health official Roberto Capiel told Telam.

Television footage showed wreckage of the overturned bus with its windshield shattered and much of its roof sheered off. Crumpled bus seats, children’s clothing, a baby bottle and beach chairs were left scattered across the railway line after the wreck, which took place at about 2 a.m. local time.

Bus passenger Cecilia Demarco told Noticias Argentinas that the vehicle “tried to beat the train” to the crossing, despite repeated warnings from the train as it sounded a horn. The account could not immediately be confirmed.

A Todo Noticias broadcast showed images of a crushed motorcycle under the debris and said authorities reported that a woman who had been waiting on a motorcycle at the crossing was among the dead.

A train passenger who identified himself only as Alejandro told the network he was preparing to go to sleep when the collision occurred.

“I heard this tremendous crash and everything shook” he said. “There were many screams, and all of this in the dark.”

Police said the bus was carrying 61 passengers and two drivers.

Authorities said there were at least 30 severe injuries reported on the bus, while at least 15 train passengers and the two train drivers received minor injuries.

Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Daniel Scioli visited the crash site and promised an exhaustive investigation.

“It’s just devastating, so tremendously sad. And to think there were families going on vacations is a disgrace,” Scioli said.

Authorities said the train’s drivers told investigators that the crossing barriers were down when the bus unexpectedly tried to cross the tracks.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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