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Little Is Clear About Horrific Calif. SUV Crash

Including whether human smuggling was involved
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2021 1:13 AM CST

(Newser) – The horrific crash near the US-Mexico border Tuesday left 13 people dead, two fewer than was initially reported, and at least six injured. With the exception of one moderately injured person, that's from just one vehicle—police say there were 25 people inside an SUV that pulled in front of a tractor-trailer at an intersection on a highway near Holtville, Calif. "Some of the walking wounded were able to pull themselves out of the vehicle," the chief of the California Highway Patrol's border division says, per the New York Times. "Once personnel arrived on the scene, some were wandering around and some of them had already passed away." First responders found a dozen people dead, some ejected from the vehicle and some still inside; the 13th victim died later at a hospital. The big rig driver was moderately injured. Investigators are looking into whether human smuggling was involved.

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The SUV could only fit eight passengers safely, and it's not clear why so many people were packed inside; the middle and back seats had been removed. At least 10 of those killed have been identified as Mexicans whose immigration status is currently unknown, and the AP reports it's not clear whether the vehicle "was carrying migrants who had crossed the border, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or was being used for some other purpose." Despite rumors that border agents may have been in pursuit of the SUV when the crash occurred, officials say that is not the case. Officials also do not yet know how fast either vehicle was traveling, whether the SUV ran a stop sign, or "exactly what caused the collision," per the CHP chief. The 28-year-old driver of the SUV, who was from Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border, was among those killed. (Read more California stories.)

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