U.S. communities sorrow over Chilean crash victims

A deadly tour bus crash in the Andes reverberated half a world away in the communities 12 elderly U.S. tourists left behind as well as in Chile where authorities say the bus was not even registered to carry passengers.

The bus tumbled down a cliff more than 100 meters (300 feet) on Wednesday, killing the 12 travelers from New Jersey and Connecticut, and also injuring two other tourists, the tour guide and the driver.

"It's a terrible tragedy. I have no words," Rhoda Katz, 73, said at The Ponds, a retirement community in Monroe Township, New Jersey, where most of the victims lived.

The Chilean government and a Miami-based cruise line distanced themselves Thursday from the operator of the bus, Andino Tours.

Celebrity Cruises said Andino Tours wasn't among the agencies it authorizes to run side trips for passengers during port stops, and that the victims made their own arrangements to visit a national park.

The president of Celebrity Cruises, Dan Hanrahan, told reporters in Miami that the victims were part of a 64-member B'nai B'rith group traveling on the Celebrity-operated Millennium.

When the ship docked in Arica, a port city near the Peruvian border surrounded by northern Chile's wind-swept deserts, the tourists apparently made their own arrangements to visit Lauca National Park, a wild Andean refuge featuring dramatic geysers, herds of llamas and one of the world's highest lakes.

They were returning to the Millennium when the bus swerved to avoid an approaching truck and plunged off the rugged highway, fell down a rocky incline and coming to rest on its side, city hall spokesman Juan Carlos Poli said, reports the AP.


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