13 dead in California SUV crash possibly slipped through border wall

Adolphe Edward, chief executive officer of El Centro Regional Medical Centre, added: "The patients are going through a little bit of a hard time as you can imagine".

The expedition, carrying 25 people, continued and was hit by a tractor-trailer. Border Patrol determined these people had entered the USA illegally through the breach in the wall. California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Omar Watson tells CNN that the rear seats had been removed specifically to allow as many people inside, which means that only the front seats had seat belts.

Ten of the 13 killed have been identified as Mexican citizens.

Surveillance footage showed two vehicles collecting border crossers from the site of the breach early Tuesday.

Neither SUV was being pursued by Border Patrol personnel at the time of their accidents, the agency's release said.

Watson also said it is unclear whether the victims in the SUV were migrant workers being taken to or from an agricultural job, or whether they were immigrants traveling into the country.

"Obviously, that vehicle is not meant for that many people", California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said to ABC 6 News, pointing out that the sheer number of people inside of the auto would have made driving and maneuvering more hard.

New details of Tuesday's fatal highway wreck near the remote farming community of Holtville, about 10 miles (16 km) north of the border, came to light as the CBP mounted an investigation into the suspected human smuggling operation believed to have led to the tragedy. Such was the impact of the collision that the Ford Expedition SUV was left shockingly disfigured and as many as 13 people lost their lives.

"Those who may be contemplating crossing the border illegally should pause to think of the dangers that all too often end in tragedy; tragedies our Border Patrol Agents and first responders are unfortunately very familiar with", Chief Bovino concluded.

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According to the AP, the hole in the border fence is a popular area for illegal crossings from Mexico to the US, particularly this time of year, which is the "height of the harvest in the agricultural region that provides much of the lettuce, onions, broccoli, and winter vegetables to USA supermarkets".

Watson said he did not know if the victims were farmworkers. The Expedition is built to hold eight people safely, but smugglers are known to pack people into vehicles in extremely unsafe conditions to maximize their profits.

The area where the crashes occurred started becoming known for illegal crossings in the 1990s, when heightened USA enforcement in San Diego pushed migrants to more remote areas, the AP reported. The driver was a 22-year-old man from Mexicali, a city just over the Mexico border.

Barely a mile from the crash, there is a cemetery with rows of unmarked bricks that is a burial ground for migrants who died crossing the border.

In a collision report released late Tuesday, the CHP said the semi driver, 68-year-old Joe Beltran, was from El Centro.

The crash occurred around 6:15 AM PST near the California-Mexico border. Some suffered life-threatening head injuries, chest injuries and fractures, officials at El Centro Regional Medical Center said Tuesday. How fast both vehicles were going also wasn't yet known.

A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds.

"This was a big vehicle", said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader.

"You're going to have extended stopping distances, delayed reactions to steering inputs and potential overreaction to any type of high-speed lane change", said Borris, who now runs a safety consulting business.

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