Nahuala, Guatemala, Mar 28 (EFE).- Residents of the Guatemalan town of Nahuala are trying to recover on Thursday after an out-of-control white truck slammed into a crowd, killing 18 people.
“It’s a tragedy. A tragedy,” a man called Miguel said between sobs, trying to catch his breath.
The man said he heard screams around 9:00 p.m. Wednesday and headed in the direction of the anguished cries, discovering “dozens of bodies” strewn along the highway.
Miguel said he immediately “pitched in” to help the injured, but he was unable to do much.
At least 18 people, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed and 19 others injured, emergency services officials said, adding that the death toll could rise.
Residents said some people retrieved the bodies of relatives and did not notify authorities.
The truck driver, identified as 25-year-old Pedro Rene, fled the accident scene and was apprehended several kilometers away. He faces manslaughter charges.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but eyewitnesses said the truck driver was speeding and had his headlights off.
The truck slammed into a crowd that had gathered at the scene of an earlier accident involving a well-known 55-year-old local man who had been hit by a vehicle.
Miguel watched as investigators from the prosecutor’s office gathered evidence and coroner’s office personnel combed the accident scene.
“No, no, no, no, no,” a small woman wrapped in a colorful blanket said, watching as emergency services personnel removed the last of the bodies from the accident scene.
All the bodies were taken to Nahuala City Hall, where a makeshift morgue was set up so officials could process and release the bodies to relatives.
Inside the building, amid the crying of the grieving, a group of coroner’s office personnel worked to identify the victims and released the remains to family members.
Slowly, starting in the early morning hours, the bodies were removed from the building – some wrapped in blankets and others inside coffins – and taken to relatives’ homes, where wakes will be held before burial.
The process took place amid silence in this K’iche’ town in Guatemala’s Solola province.
As dawn arrived, the last of the bodies were removed from City Hall.
One of the coffins was placed in the bed of a pick-up truck and quickly surrounded by relatives, one of whom, a woman, put her arms around the wooden box.
The woman ran her hands over the coffin and mumbled some words in the indigenous K’iche’ language.
The Sun was coming up, marking the start of another day for families that would have to deal with the ghosts and monsters of the night.
The image in residents’ minds was one of blood on the pavement and bodies lying under tarps, with shoes and personal belongings strewn about – the evidence of a tragedy.