, Manila, Philippines, Dec 25 – Twenty pilgrims from the same extended family were killed Monday in a head-on bus collision while travelling to Christmas Day mass in the northern Philippines, police said.
A small bus taking the group to a dawn church service crashed into a larger bus in the town of Agoo killing 20 on board, including six children, police said.
The nine other occupants of the small bus were injured, as were 17 travelling on the bigger bus, according to an updated tally released by regional police.
“They (the family) were trying to catch a mass in Manaoag,” Agoo police officer Vanessa Abubo told AFP, referring to a northern Philippine town near Agoo with a famous Catholic church.
The centuries-old Our Lady of Manaoag church is a popular pilgrimage site in the mainly Catholic nation, featuring an icon of the Virgin Mary which the faithful say performs miracles.
Agoo police chief Roy Villanueva told Manila radio station DZMM by telephone that the smaller vehicle had left its lane to overtake a third vehicle.
Authorities are investigating whether the driver, who Abubo said was among those killed, had fallen asleep or was under the influence, Villanueva added.
Agoo is located 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Manila. The pilgrims had come from the town of Bauang, an hour’s drive from Manaoag, police said.