People surround the truck that plowed into a crowd of pilgrims on July 29, 2015 in Mazapil, Zacatecas State, Mexico
Mazapil (Mexico) (AFP) - At least 26 people, including four children, were killed when a truck plowed into pilgrims after its brakes failed in Mexico, authorities said Thursday, while the driver fled the scene.
Dozens of people were injured following Wednesday afternoon's accident on the main road of Mazapil, a north-central town of 16,000 people in a mining region of Zacatecas state, officials said.
Hundreds of pilgrims were marching toward the 18th century San Gregorio Magno church when the dump truck, which was carrying tonnes of sand, slammed into cars and people.
The vehicle hit a building's facade and human hair was encrusted into the heavily damaged wall, where people left a wooden cross. The accident left pools of blood and shattered glass on the street.
Fourteen people died on the spot while others succumbed to their injuries at hospitals or on their way there, authorities said.
The death toll rose to 26 during the day, said Health Minister Mercedes Juan Lopez. She told Radio Formula that some 120 people were hurt and 42 of them remained hospitalized, including 10 in serious condition.
The dead children were aged one, three, four and five, Zacatecas chief prosecutor Leticia Catalina Soto Acosta told AFP.
"The vehicle traveled out of control for a few meters, mowing down a few cars," Soto Acosta said.
"The contingent (of pilgrims) was first injured by the first vehicles that the truck struck. Then the truck went off its axis, the weight pressed on one side and it flipped. This was the worst impact," she said.
Witnesses said the driver jumped out of the truck before its final impact, the prosecutor said.
"He has been identified and we are searching for him," she said.
The prosecutor identified the company that owns the truck as Construcciones Industriales y Transportistas.
- Party before 'terrible scene' -
The religious procession was part of the town's July 29 to August 6 annual celebration of Father Jesus, a saint who has been venerated since the 16th century.
Filiberto Campos, the parish priest, said nearly 1,000 people came from surrounding rural communities.
"There was a party, dance, fireworks. Everything was going well. There was a happy atmosphere," Campos said.
"I was walking with the people who led the contingent when a big dust cloud appeared. There was a loud noise. We ran and saw a terrible scene," he said.
"Some people had died, others were in agony. We offered them religious rights," the priest said.
A police car was in front of the procession while an ambulance had been at the back when tragedy struck.
Religious processions through roads and towns are common throughout the year in Mexico, a fervently Roman Catholic country of nearly 120 million people.
Many of the victims of Wednesday's accident came from other towns.
Most were from the Santa Rosa community, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Mazapil, Soto Acosta said. Others had come from the neighboring states of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila.
President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed his condolences and offered federal help to the victims.