A truck slammed into a bus carrying tourists to an Ecuadorean coastal town, killing five young British women and injuring 15 other people, officials said Sunday.
The victims, in their teens and twenties, were participating in a four-month language and volunteer program, according to Mark Davison, director of VentureCo Worldwide Ltd., the tour company that organized the trip.
The crash took place on Saturday evening when a truck carrying a load of sand smashed into the bus near the town of Jipijapa, between the Ecuadorean capital of Quito and the coastal town of Puerto Lopez, police said. The truck driver fled the scene.
The injured include 12 British tourists, an Ecuadorean tour guide, and a French citizen, police officer Edison Chiluisa said.
Britain's Foreign Office identified the dead as Sarah Howard, 26; Rebecca Logie, 19; Elizabeth Pincock, 19; Emily Sadler, 19; and Indira Swann, 18.
A doctor treating the tourists, Jorge Cedeno, told The Associated Press that all of the injured are "out of danger," although at least seven remain in the hospital. Cedeno said they had broken bones, concussions and cuts to the legs and faces.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "deeply saddened" by news of the deaths.
Britain's acting ambassador traveled to Manta to ensure proper medical care, the Foreign Office said in a statement. British Embassy Vice Consul Veronica Ruiz said preparations were underway to move the injured to Quito for treatment.
"A parent should never have to go through this," tour organizer Davison told the British Broadcasting Corp. in a television interview. "My heart absolutely goes out to them."