SAO PAULO (AP) — A bus driver in southern Brazil veered off the highway and crashed, leaving at least 16 dead and 20 injured, officials said Thursday.
The accident happened around 11:40 p.m. Wednesday on the outskirts of Mogi das Cruzes, a city about 38 miles (60 kilometers) east of Sao Paulo.
Police inspector Fabio Pierri, who is heading the investigation, said weather conditions were good at the time and the bus apparently was exceeding the speed limit on a curve.
"We also cannot discard the possibility that he fell asleep at the wheel," Pierri added.
Uniao do Litoral, the company that owns the bus, said in a statement that the vehicle had successfully gone through a routine preventive maintenance program two weeks ago and that the cause of the accident will only be known after a thorough investigation.
Fifteen people, including the driver, were found dead at the scene, and another died en route to the hospital.
Local media reported that at least two more had died. However, authorities could not immediately confirm that.
The G1 web portal reported that many of the passengers were university students commuting from Mogi das Cruzes to smaller towns along the northern coastline of Sao Paulo state.
Psychology student Lorena Pickler said she stayed at home studying and did not go to school on Wednesday. "That's what saved my life."
"I take that bus practically every day," she told G1. "I could have been in that bus with my friends many of whom who died."
Wanderson da Silva is one of the survivors.
"We realized something was wrong the third time the driver went around a curve abruptly," he told the O Globo TV network. "Everybody put on their seat belts and started screaming desperately. Then suddenly the bus crashed."