KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (AP) — A small bus packed with secondary students on their way to class plunged off a seaside cliff Monday on the island of St. Vincent, killing at least five children. Authorities were searching for two others who were unaccounted for after the crash.
The minibus was full, with about 21 people, including the driver, a conductor and another adult, at the time of the crash, Police Commissioner Michael Charles said. It struck a utility pole and went off the cliff, falling about 20 feet to the rocks on the northern Atlantic Ocean side of the small island.
Fourteen of those on board the bus were hospitalized, according to the Ministry of Health, but no details were provided on their conditions. The driver was injured, but survived the crash and assisted in the rescue efforts, the ministry said in a statement.
Coast Guard boats and police searched for the missing girls but it was a difficult effort amid heavy surf along the rocky coast.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, Charles said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves called the crash a "tragedy of national proportions," and canceled the annual budget speech he was scheduled to deliver Monday to Parliament.
"It was a terrible accident and I think everyone's heart is really heavy because of what has taken place," Gonsalves said in a radio interview.
Authorities did not identify the children, though their names were widely known on an island of only about 100,000 people. Secondary students are typically between the ages of 11 to 18 on St. Vincent.