ICE opens human smuggling probe into Calif. deadly crash


A collision between a big rig and an SUV carrying more than two dozen people near the U.S. -Mexico border Tuesday morning killed at least 13 and injured several others, officials said. It is believed they were part of a migrant smuggling operation.

The crash took place on State Route 115 near El Centro, a city about 60 miles west of the Arizona border and about 15 miles from the U.S. -Mexico border.

The SUV was a Ford Expedition that would typically seat eight to nine people legally. Ten of the 13 victims were identified as Mexican citizens.

Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said agents were not pursuing the SUV at the time of the crash, which was initially rumoured.

The fence "was made of steel bollards that were built before former President Donald Trump blanketed much of the border with taller barriers that go deeper into the ground", the AP reported.

Agents also found 19 people hiding in the brush by a red Suburban engulfed in flames and "determined they had entered the country illegally through the breach in the border fence", border patrol said.

It was not immediately clear whether the SUV was carrying migrants who had crossed the border, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or was being used for some other goal.

"We're not sure if the vehicle [SUV] ran the stop sign or if the vehicle stopped and entered unsafely".

"It's unfortunate that that number of people were were put into that vehicle because there's not enough safety restraints to safely keep those people within the vehicle", Watson explained.

"It's too early in the investigation to say what they were doing and where they were coming from", Omar Watson of the California Highway Patrol said during a Tuesday afternoon press briefing.

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"The important is that 13 people died in this crash".

In 2001, John Hunter founded Water Station, a volunteer group that leaves jugs of water in giant plastic drums for dehydrated migrants.

The area of the state is a thoroughfare for Mexican immigrants and farmworkers headed north towards California's rich agricultural center, but officials said it was still unknown whether the passengers were migrants. His administration's first wall project was in Calexico. Others were wandering around the nearby fields.

"Subsequently the big rig collided with the left side of the Ford Expedition".

Law enforcement officers work at the scene of a deadly crash near Holtville, Calif., on Tuesday. But this one had just two seats, one for the driver, one for a front passenger. The driver of the gravel truck sustained only moderate injuries, Watson said.

"Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life", El Centro Sector Chief Gregory Bovino said in a statement.

According to authorities, police received a call about the crash at about 6:15 a.m.

Images of the collision showed the semi-truck crashed into the side of a burgundy-colored SUV that appeared to have California license plates.

Both vehicles came to a halt on a dirt shoulder.

"You're going to have extended stopping distances, delayed reactions to steering inputs and potential over-reaction to any type of high-speed lane change", said Frank Borris, former head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation.