Rescuers search for passengers from the bus which has fallen off a cliff in Yongzhou, central China's Hunan Province, Oct. 18, 2012. (Xinhua)
CHANGSHA, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- A bus loaded with a 47-strong school party on its way to sit an exam fell off a 30-meter-high slope in Yongzhou City in central China's Hunan Province Thursday afternoon, leaving at least four people dead, local authorities said.
The accident happened at 5:50 p.m., when the bus -- which has a capacity of 49 and was loaded with 46 students and one teacher from Hunan Daoxian County Junior Normal College, along with the driver -- was on its way from Daoxian County to Yongzhou, sources told Xinhua.
Two people died at the scene and another two died after being sent to hospital.
All other people on the bus were injured, three of them seriously, said the Yongzhou municipal government in a press release. All the injured have been sent to the affiliated hospital of Yongzhou Vocational Technical College.
The students, from a junior college with 3,000 students, were heading to Yongzhou as scheduled to sit the higher education self-study exam, said Mo Xuejun, an official of the college office.
A total of 171 students were headed to Yongzhou for the exam, in four rented buses accompanied by four teachers, and three of the buses arrived safely in Yongzhou, Mo told Xinhua via phone in an exclusive interview.
The exam was scheduled for Friday and the college planned to let the students stay in Yongzhou on Thursday night, Mo said.
A faculty team lead by the college president has arrived at the scene, according to Mo.
"No crash happened. It might be a brake malfunction, we guess," the official said.
Rather than rolling off the slope, the bus slid off it when turning at the corner, said a restaurant boss who witnessed.
The bus was then visible upside down at the bottom of the slope, witnesses said.
The press release from the municipal government blamed poor driving for the incident.
The teacher on the bus, named Deng Guolin, 31, was hurt on the head and has been in a coma, said a family member of Deng who answered his phone.
"Doctors said he needs rest now," said the man.
Local police soon arrived at the site and local residents joined search and rescue work right after the accident.
"The college official said there was one student missing. All the people here joined the searching but later the official said they got the wrong number of students," a traffic policeman at the scene told Xinhua via phone.
The rescue work had ceased as of 10:30 p.m. and a crane was sent to drive away the bus, witnesses told Xinhua.
Municipal government officials have arrived at the site.