TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two Columbia University students were among those killed Wednesday when a bus crashed on the way to an airport in Honduras.

A U.S. health care worker was also killed in the accident. The group was set to fly home after a volunteer mission helping poor Hondurans.

Isa Alvarado, spokeswoman for the Public Ministry morgue in Honduras, said the dead were three American women aged 20, 21 and 45. Their identities were not immediately released.

Twelve more Americans were injured. Reinaldo Canales, administrator for the Valle de Angeles Adventist Hospital, said they were in stable condition.

U.S.-based Global Brigades, which organizes international health and development missions, posted a notice on its website saying the accident involved a bus transporting “Columbia University students and other volunteers,” and that those killed were two students and a health care professional.

Two Columbia University students and a U.S. health care worker were killed in a bus crash in Honduras on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Credit: Bomberos de Honduras)

Two Columbia University students and a U.S. health care worker were killed in a bus crash in Honduras on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Credit: Bomberos de Honduras)

“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those affected by this tragedy,” said the statement, attributed to co-founder Steven Atamian. “We have contacted the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and Columbia University, and are actively working to communicate with affected families and to provide all available support and assistance in response to this terrible accident.

Columbia released a statement on the accident late Wednesday.

“We are deeply saddened to report that earlier today a bus carrying a group of Columbia and Barnard students was involved in a serious accident while traveling in Honduras on a volunteer mission organized by the humanitarian, non-profit group Global Brigades. Three fatalities have been reported and the families have been notified,” the statement said.

“We are in the process of determining the full extent of the injuries sustained by the bus passengers and contacting families of our students. Columbia medical and support personnel are traveling to Honduras overnight to provide additional on-site assistance. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this tragic loss.

Phone messages left at Global Brigades headquarters in Seattle were not immediately returned.

The crash took place on a highway east of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. Officials reported that the bus was traveling from the town of San Juancito when it veered off a road and fell about 80 feet into a gully.

Two Columbia University students and a U.S. health care worker were killed in a bus crash in Honduras on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Credit: Bomberos de Honduras)

Two Columbia University students and a U.S. health care worker were killed in a bus crash in Honduras on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Credit: Bomberos de Honduras)

Firefighters’ spokesman Capt. Gustavo Barahona said the crash was believed to be the result of mechanical failure.

He added that at the time of the accident, they were on their way to the airport to return to the United States after carrying out a health mission for poor residents of San Juancito and Valle de Angeles.

Alvarado said forensic workers were preparing the bodies to be returned to the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Honduras said in a statement it was in close contact with local authorities and working to provide consular assistance to any who needed it.

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