Mexico crash that killed 3 Canadians involved drunk trucker: local police

Three Canadians and eight other people, most of them tourists, have been killed in northeastern Mexico after a bus collided with a tractor-trailer driven by a man police say was drunk.

Victims came from Vancouver, Quebec City and Caledonia, Ont.

The scene in northern Mexico Tuesday following the crash of a bus and a truck that killed 11 people, including three Canadians. ((

Three Canadians and eight other people, most of them tourists, have been killed in northeastern Mexico after a bus collided with a tractor-trailer driven by a man police say was drunk.

The Canadians are Robert Lacas, 56, of Quebec City, Marilyn Jackson, 67, from Vancouver, and Carolyn Kowaleski, 64, of Caledonia, Ont.

Carolyn and Randy Kowaleski of Caledonia, Ont., were on vacation in the United States with a side trip into Mexico. ((Courtesy of Kowaleski family))

The crash occurred Monday afternoon on a highway southwest of Monterrey as the bus travelled from McAllen, Texas, toward Zacatecas in central Mexico, the Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported on Tuesday.

Coahuila state police said the truck driver appeared to have nodded off and lost control of his truck on the two-lane highway about 50 kilometres from Saltillo, in northern Mexico. The truck swerved off the road, then crossed into the oncoming lane, smashing into the side of the bus, which police said carried 26 passengers, mostly retirees.

The trucker, who survived with serious injuries, was intoxicated, said Jose Angel Herrera, a federal homicide detective in Coahuila.

Marilyn Jackson of Vancouver died in the crash. ((Family photo))
The truck driver is in police custody in hospital and will be charged with involuntary homicide, Herrera said. Prosecutors said urine tests indicated that Julio Cesar Garcia, 23, may have drunk four to five beer before the crash.

Freelance journalist James Blears, reporting for CBC News from Mexico City, said 15 people were seriously hurt in the crash in addition to the 11 killed.

Officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa confirmed that Canadian citizens were involved in the incident, but refused to provide any additional details.

Lacas, who long worked at the Quebec Centre for Industrial Research (CRIQ), had just retired and was travelling with his wife, Line Carrier, according to their son, Christian Poulin.

The couple had been travelling in Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico when they decided to take a four-day side trip to Mexico as part of an organized bus tour that began Monday morning, Poulin told Radio-Canada.

The couple, who had been together about 20 years, were due back in Quebec at the end of April.

"They were happy. They smiled all the time," he said. "They were a perfect couple. They worked hard all of their lives."

4 injured Canadians

Carrier, 55, was among four injured Canadians.

Kyra Duerta, a spokeswoman for Hospital de la Concepcion, where Kowaleski's husband, Randy, was in intensive care, said he was in stable condition.

"We are extremely saddened and heartbroken by the news, but we also need to pray for Randy as he remains in intensive care in hospital," Kowaleski's family said in a statement.

Duerta also confirmed Jackson's death.


Friends of Jackson, a couple from Burlington, Ont., Karen and Jim Lait, 58 and 60, respectively, were in stable condition at Hospital Muguerza.

"I was trying to brace myself for hearing that they were dead — I'm very thankful that that wasn't the case," Alex Lait, the couple's son, told CBC News.

"Hearing relatively minor injuries is a relief, especially in the circumstances, knowing so many people were killed in that accident."

Carrier, who was reached at Hospital Magisterio in Saltillo, declined to talk about the accident and said she was being attended to by several nurses.

"In any event, I have no recollection about what happened," she said.

Her family members expected to travel to Mexico on Wednesday.

With files from the Canadian Press