Deadly crash in California over unlawful border crossings Oklahoma Information
HOLTVILLE, Calif. (AP) – Barely a mile from where an all-terrain vehicle loaded with 25 people struck an articulated truck – 13 were killed inside – an unmarked brick cemetery is a burial site for migrants who crossed the border from Mexico to remote California were killed in the desert.
Authorities are investigating whether people smuggling was involved in the early morning collision on Tuesday that killed the 22-year-old male driver of the SUV and 12 passengers. The Mexican government said 10 of the dead were Mexican citizens and the nationality of the other three deceased was uncertain.
The 1997 Ford Expedition seats were removed with the exception of the driver and right passenger, said Omar Watson, chief of borders for California Highway Patrol.
The cause of the collision is uncertain, the authorities said, and it is also not known why so many people were crammed into a vehicle that was supposed to keep eight people safe. However, smugglers are known to package people in extremely unsafe conditions in order to maximize their profits.
The crash occurred during the height of the harvest in California’s Imperial Valley, which supplies much of the lettuce, onions, broccoli and winter vegetables to US supermarkets. Holtville, a city without traffic lights with a pavilion in the large central square, calls itself the carrot capital of the world.
The area became a major route for illegal border crossings in the late 1990s after increased enforcement in San Diego pushed migrants to more remote areas. Many crossed the All-American Canal, an aqueduct that runs along the border that gives the Colorado River water to farms through a vast network of canals.
At the back of Terrace Park Cemetery in Holtville, individual bricks – rows of them – mark the unidentified remains of people who have died, including many migrants.
In 2001, John Hunter founded the Water Station, a volunteer group that leaves jugs of water in giant plastic barrels for dehydrated migrants.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to stop death,” said Hunter, whose brother Duncan, as a congressman, was a strong advocate of building border walls.
Illegal crossings fell sharply in the mid-2000s, but the area remains a draw for migrants and was a priority for the Wall being built under former President Donald Trump. The first wall project of his administration was in Calexico.
US Immigration and Customs said late Tuesday that Homeland Security Investigation agents “have opened an investigation into people smuggling (into the Tuesday crash). The investigation is ongoing and no further details are currently available.”
When police arrived about 200 kilometers east of San Diego, some passengers tried to crawl out of the crumpled SUV while others wandered across the fields. The front end of the rig was slid into the left side of the SUV and two empty trailers were stabbed behind it.
“It was a pretty messy scene,” said Watson.
The Border Patrol said their agents were not tracking the vehicle.
The people in the vehicle were between 15 and 53 years old and were a mix of men and women, officials said. The driver came from Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border and was among those killed. The 68-year-old driver of the big rig from nearby El Centro was hospitalized with moderate injuries.
Passenger injuries ranged from mild to severe and included fractures and head injuries. They were cared for in several hospitals. One person was treated in a hospital and released.
The crash occurred around 6:15 a.m. in clear, sunny skies at an intersection outside of Holtville, about 18 kilometers north of the border. Authorities said the truck and its two empty containers were traveling north on State Highway 115 when the SUV pulled off a road with a stop sign in front of it.
According to a California Highway Patrol report, the SUV entered an intersection just in front of the big rig that hit the left side of the SUV. Both vehicles stopped on a dirty shoulder.
It is not clear whether the SUV had a stop sign or stopped before entering the freeway. Velocities were also unknown.
According to CHP representative Jake Sanchez, the speed limit for tractor units on the autobahn is 88.5 km / h. The other road is also 55 mph for vehicles.
A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. If 25 people were inside, it would easily exceed the payload limit, which puts stress on the brakes and makes steering difficult, said Frank Borris, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation.
“You will have longer braking distances, delayed responses to steering inputs and possible overreactions to any type of high-speed lane change,” said Borris, who now runs a safety consultancy.
SUVs this age tended to be top heavy even without carrying a lot of weight, Borris said.
“With all that payload above the vehicle’s center of gravity, it becomes even more unstable,” he said.
The crash occurred amid green farms that grow a variety of vegetables and alfalfa that are used as fodder. Many workers commute daily from Mexico during the winter harvest, bringing buses and SUVs from downtown Calexico to the fields just before dawn.
Associated press reporters Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this.
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