The driver of the bus that exploded leaving at least 30 children dead and the man who hired the bus could both face up to 60 years in jail if found guilty for the tragedy, international media reported on Wednesday.
“[They are charged with] the crime of negligent homicide for which the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 60 years,” solicitor Mauricio Ramierz told French newswire AFP.
Jaime Guttierrez, the driver responsible for the explosion of the bus and Manuel Ibarra, the pastor who hired the bus,will face a hearing in the northern Colombian city of Santa Marta.
The tragic bus accident took place in northern Colombia on Sunday and 31 children were killed burning as the bus caught fire.
MORE: Driver and pastor involved in Colombia bus tragedy to face charges of manslaughter
While authorities are still investigating the cause of the fatal accident, one witness told French press agency AFP that the driver had walked away from the vehicle to buy a drink and asked the children to put gas in the vehicle, after which the bus caught fire. Initial reports suggested a mechanical failure caused the fire.
The bus driver without drivers license and an outstanding traffic fine of $250, reportedly surrendered to authorities after initially fleeing the scene of the tragedy.
Another solicitor, Diego Duque, said that “This was negligent conduct but not intentional. We cannot compare them to criminals who intended to do harm” according to AFP.
He added that one of the pastor’s daughters perished in the tragic accident.
Pope Francis sent a telegram to Colombia on Tuesday expressing his condolences for the children who lost their lives in a tragic bus accident on Sunday.
MORE: Pope sends condolences to Colombia after bus tragedy
President Juan Manuel Santos flew to the municipality of Fundacion on Monday where the accident took place and announced that the government of Colombia will compensate and provide psychological support for those closest to the victims of the accident. Each family is also to receive compensation of approximately $6000.
MORE: Colombian govt to compensate families of children lost in bus tragedy