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Peru 'bus' crash kills 51, including 14 children, on way home from party

The truck full of indigenous Quechua Indians plummeted 650 feet from the road into a ravine

A cargo truck being used as a makeshift bus has fallen off a cliff in an accident in Peru, killing all 51 people on board including 14 children.

The incident on Friday night came as a large group of Quechua Indians, a people indigenous to the Andean highlands, made their way home from a party in the provincial capital of Santa Teresa.

The red-and-yellow truck came off the road and fell from a cliff, plunging about 650 feet (200 metres) into the Chaupimayo river below.

Rescuers searched with flashlights throughout the night, finding bodies as far as 330 feet (100 metres) away from the crash site – suggesting, officials said, that they had been thrown from the truck as it fell.

“We haven't found a single survivor,” said firefighter Captain David Taboada, who was leading the rescue operation.

Initial reports said 52 bodies had been pulled from the waters around the twisted metal remains of the vehicle, but a press release from the Santa Rita police yesterday confirmed an official toll of 51.

The cause of the accident hasn't been determined, Taboada said, adding that the vehicle was “coming from a party in Santa Teresa at which a lot of alcohol was consumed.”

Firefighters were placing the recovered bodies on a soccer field above where the crash took place.

Throughout the morning and day, relatives of the victims arrived to identify their loved ones.

Fedia Castro, mayor of the district where Santa Teresa is located, told Canal N television that rural farmers must rely on informal forms of transport, such as this cargo truck, because no public buses exist in the area.

The high-altitude roads of the Peruvian Andes are notorious for bus plunges, with poor farmers comprising many of the victims. Last year, more than 4,000 people were killed in such accidents.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press