A bus plunged into a canal in western India early Wednesday, killing at least 41 schoolchildren going to take an exam and three others, an official said. Fourteen passengers were missing.

District official Vijay Nehra said 44 bodies had been pulled out of the canal near Vadodara city in Gujarat state, and rescuers were searching for the missing passengers. Four children swam ashore and have been hospitalized, he said. Earlier, Nehra said at least 45 people had died.

The students from a village school were traveling to a nearby town, Bodeli, to take an exam when the accident occurred, Nehra said.

The bus driver appeared to have lost control of the vehicle while trying to pass another bus, he said. The vehicle smashed through a concrete barricade and plunged nearly 50 feet into the canal.

The driver was among those killed, said Superintendent of Police Amit Vishwanarain.

The state government ordered an inquiry into the accident and rushed medical teams to the scene, 95 miles south of Ahmadabad, the key Gujarat city.

The flow of water into the 20-foot-deep canal from a dam has been stopped to help rescuers locate the missing people, Nehra said.