On Wednesday, workers sawed though the bus frame to extract bodies while heavy waves crashed on the beach around them. National Police Col. Dino Escudero Alcántara said the area was inaccessible by land, so emergency responders were helicoptered down to the site or arrived by boat.
Teams picked their way along craggy rocks near the beach where the battered bus rested upside down. Some survivors and the bodies of victims were helicoptered out. A Peruvian navy ship assisted rescuers in the race to clear the scene ahead of the rising tides.
Police Col. Franklin Barreto said investigators were reviewing initial reports that both vehicles were traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the crash. The driver of the truck was held for questioning, police said.
The bus was owned by Transportes San Martin de Porres. Luis Martinez, a spokesman for the company, said the driver was experienced and had an assistant on board. Martinez did not indicate whether the duo survived. The bus underwent an inspection before the trip, he said.
The serpentine road where the accident happened has no safety fences and is often laced with heavy fog coming off the nearby ocean, according to dangerousroads.org, which lists the roadway as “extremely dangerous.”
Barreto acknowledge the road is dangerous and said speed controls would be established.
Traffic accidents are common along Peru’s roadways: More than 2,600 people were killed in 2016. Tuesday’s death toll equals Peru’s deadliest traffic crash on record — in 2013 a makeshift bus carrying 51 Quechua Indians fell off a cliff into a river, killing everyone on board.