BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities said Monday night that aggravated manslaughter charges would be filed against a bus driver over the deaths of 32 children from a fire in the overcrowded vehicle bringing them home from Sunday school.
Luz Estella Duran, mayor of the village of Fundacion where Sunday's tragedy took place, said witness accounts suggested the driver might have left the small bus running with the children on board when he got out to put gas in its tank from a portable container.
Twenty others were hospitalized, with about half in a delicate state, Duran said.
President Juan Manuel Santos interrupted a busy final stretch of campaigning ahead of the May 25 elections and traveled Sunday night to the town near the Caribbean coast to pay his respects to the mostly poor families of the victims. He called for a thorough investigation to prevent more such tragedies and declared a national day of mourning.
"We are with you. The entire country is with you," Santos said.
The children, ranging in age from toddlers to 12, were traveling home from Sunday school classes at a small Pentecostal church down the road from a nearby town where Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born.
Nelson Tapias, a 54-year-old merchant in the town, said he lost his granddaughter and several nephews. "I have my heart torn apart in six pieces," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.