Serenade of the Seas cruise ship arrives at Port Everglades after fatal bus crash in Mexico

4 cruise passengers were on bus, Royal Caribbean says

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. – Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas cruise ship arrived at Port Everglades early Friday, days after four of its passengers were involved in a fatal bus crash in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Passengers who departed the ship Friday morning told Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright that the ship was delayed leaving Mexico because of the crash.

One passenger, Mark Pelfrey, told Local 10 News that cruise line employees told passengers that one person aboard the Serenade of the Seas had died and the three others were injured. A Royal Caribbean spokesman later confirmed that statement. 

Pelfrey said he was also aboard a tour bus that was behind the one that crashed on Tuesday.

According to Pelfrey, who is a paramedic from Ohio, his tour bus paused after spotting the crash scene, but never stopped to help. 

Pelfrey, who took video of the scene before first responders arrived, said there was at least one other EMT on his bus. 

A woman who departed the cruise Friday said she is glad to be back on land and is just grateful that she wasn't on the bus when it crashed.

"I was telling my mom, 'it can happen to any of us.' We're lucky, because we were extremely sad over what happened to those people -- extremely sad," Sandra Novoa said. 

Another woman, Michelle Whitten, said she and her family were almost on the bus that crashed, but wound up getting on a second bus.

"We had a family of five, and there were only four seats left, so they put us in the bus behind," she said. 

The cruise line said in a statement that 23 passengers from the Celebrity Equinox were also aboard the bus that crashed Tuesday, killing 12 people.

One of the victims on the bus was identified as Fanya Shamis, 78, of Coconut Creek. Relatives said Shamis' daughter Anna Behar, 46, of Lorton, Virginia, and her grandson Daniel Behar, 11, are unaccounted for and presumed dead.

A couple from Apopka, Laura and Christopher Coullier were among those killed in the crash.

Neighbors said Christopher Coullier was originally from France and worked in finance. His wife was a book designer.

U.S. officials said seven Americans were also injured in the crash, including Anna Behar's husband, Moises Behar.

Authorities said the bus was traveling to Mayan ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum when it crashed.

A Mexican state prosecutor said on Wednesday that the crash was caused by the driver's negligence and excessive speed. 

Disturbing images taken at the crash scene showed the bodies of tourists lying on the ground on the side of the highway. 

"Our hearts go out to all those involved in the bus accident in Costa Maya. We are doing all we can to care for our guests, including assisting with medical care and transportation," a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said in a statement. 

The Serenade of the Seas departed Port Everglades Dec. 15 and traveled to Key West, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico.

The Celebrity Equinox, which was also on a seven-night Caribbean cruise, is expected to arrive back at Port Miami on Saturday.

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