QUITO – Illegal drugs found in the bus that crashed this week near the Ecuadorian capital have opened a new line of inquiry regarding the accident, which left 23 people dead and 22 others injured.
More than 1,000 lbs. of marijuana worth more than $1.7 million were found in the bus, which entered Ecuador from Colombia, police Gen. Carlos Alulema said Friday.
The drugs were hidden inside the bus’s floor, underneath the seats, he told a press conference.
The general confirmed that his Colombian counterparts were cooperating to carry out the investigation on the accident, and that a team of specialists were set to arrive from Colombia on Friday.
Prosecutor Ruth Palacios said that the driver of the bus is in the hospital and in police custody, adding that the investigation will determine if any of the 22 injured were involved in the drug-smuggling operation.
“We have to carry out the necessary investigations to determine who can or cannot be released,” she said, after reporters asked her if the injured passengers were free to leave Ecuador.
The accident, which took place on a highway connecting Quito with Papallacta, involved the bus and an SUV in which nine Ecuadorian nationals were travelling.
Twenty one of the 23 people killed have been identified, including 15 Colombian nationals, four Venezuelans and two Ecuadorians.
According to Alulema, this is the fourth bus detained by Ecuadorian authorities carrying illegal drugs – all of them coming from Colombia – during operations that have led to a score of people being arrested.