BUENOS AIRES -- Pope Francis was deeply grieved, the Vatican said today, after the deaths of three relatives killed when their car slammed into the back of a truck on a highway in central Argentina.
A nephew of the pope, Emanuel Bergoglio, who was driving the car was in serious condition following the accident just after midnight today. The nephew's wife, 35, and two children aged 2 years and 8 months died.
The pope was “deeply saddened” by the news, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, confirming the deaths.
DYN news agency said Mr. Begoglio's car slammed into the back of a truck carrying grains.
The driver of the grains truck, Raul Pombo, told local television stations he felt the impact and found Mr. Bergoglio's vehicle wedged under the rear of his vehicle.
“I began stopping passing cars to ask for their fire extinguishers because the car was on fire,” Mr. Pombo said.
The region's highway patrol chief, Jorge Rainieri, called the impact “powerful” and television pictures showed the mangled wreckage of the compact car. The accident occurred in Argentina's central Cordoba province.
Pope Francis, 77, became the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years with his appointment last year. A native of Argentina, he previously served as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The pope “asks everyone who shares his pain to join him in prayer,” Mr. Lombardi said.
Bloomberg News contributed.