[Biden owns it...] 13 killed in California border crossing crash: How did it happen? Why were there 25 people in an SUV? A visual explanation

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Leroy N. Soetoro

Mar 9, 2021, 3:02:33 PM3/9/21

Holtvile, Calif. — Thirteen people died after a truck slammed into an SUV
packed with 25 people - many of them Mexican nationals - just before 6:15
local time Tuesday, in an accident that has shined a spotlight on
immigration and border concerns. Many in the SUV are believed to have
entered the U.S. that morning through a hole in a border fence.

Twelve died at the scene and one died at the hospital. Some of the
survivors crawled out and others were pulled from the damaged vehicle in a
chaotic scene.

The crash has raised many questions — several have been answered since
early reports on Tuesday — but many yet remain. This is a visual look at
the facts as we know them.

Who was involved in the SUV crash?
Those in the SUV were among 44 people who entered the U.S. through a hole
cut into Southern California’s border fence, Border Patrol officials said
Wednesday, and possible "smuggling" was being investigated.

Officer Omar Watson of California Highway Patrol said everyone in the SUV
was injured to some extent. According to Watson, the injured and dead were
a mix of women and men from 15 to 53 years old. One person was released
from the hospital Tuesday.

The 69-year-old driver of the larger truck was airlifted to Desert
Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. The 22-year-old driver of the
SUV, from nearby Mexicali, Mexico, has died.

Where did the SUV come from?
Two vehicles were seen on surveillance video leaving the area of the fence
hole around 6 a.m. PT Tuesday, officials said. One vehicle, a Chevrolet
Suburban, carried 19 people and caught fire after entering the U.S. and
traveling 30 miles to the intersection of Interstate 8 and State Route
115. All passengers escaped the vehicle and were taken into custody by
Border Patrol agents.

The other vehicle, a 1997 Ford Expedition, was transporting 25 people when
a big rig hit the SUV's side at the intersection of State Route 115 and
Norrish Road near Holtville, California, officials said.

Here's how the collision occurred:

Where is Holtville, California?

A semi-truck towing a belly dump trailer was headed northbound on Route
115 before plowing into a 1997 Ford Expedition at the intersection with
Norrish Road a few miles north of Holtville.

The semi crashed into the Expedition's driver's side as the SUV crossed
over the roadway, pushing it into the shoulder. The SUV did have a stop
sign, but it is unknown who had right of way, or if it stopped before
crossing the highway. The big rig did not have a stop sign.

The Ford SUV that was destroyed when it crashed with a big rig sits on the
side of Highway 115 near Holtville, Ca., as investigators try to determine
what happened, March 2, 2021.
The Ford SUV that was destroyed when it crashed with a big rig sits on the
side of Highway 115 near Holtville, Ca., as investigators try to determine
what happened, March 2, 2021.
First responders arrived on the scene within 10 minutes of an initial call
around 6:15 local time according to California Highway Patrol. The semi's
trailer did not appear to be loaded, which may have reduced the force of
the impact.

Twelve people died on the scene and another died at the hospital.

How do you fit 25 people into an SUV?
The two back seat rows of the Expedition had been removed to accommodate
the large amount of people in the vehicle, and Waston indicated an
insufficient amount of safety belts were made available to passengers.

Has this happened before?
There have been multiple crashes at this intersection in the past.
Previous memorials could be seen in photographs, and in Google Earth
imagery of site.

Calexico resident Hugo Castro, 49, placed at least 20 crosses at the scene
for the crash victims. He said he didn’t know any of them, nor was he
familiar with previous collisions at the intersection. He placed the
crosses, he said, to raise awareness for immigration rights and reform.

“I know they’re human beings who deserve a better opportunity,” Castro
said. “Human beings should not die for trying to be with their loved

Similar incidents are also described in a report on farmworkers.

Authorities are working with the Mexican consulate to identify the

Why did the truck crash into the SUV?
During a press conference on Tuesday, Officer Omar Watson of California
Highway Patrol said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the

He stated that while there were skid marks on the roadway, it is unknown
whether they were related to the crash, and that weather did not appear to
be a factor as the roadways were dry.

After being asked if the vehicle was chased, Watson stated that there were
no law enforcement agencies involved in the incident. Border Patrol
officials have since stated that they did not pursue the vehicle after it
crossed the border.

A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. If it
had 25 people inside, that would easily exceed the payload limit, taxing
the brakes and making it tougher to steer the vehicle, Frank Borris,
former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office
of Defects Investigation told the Associated Press.

“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.

SUVs of that age tended to be top-heavy even when not carrying a lot of
weight, Borris said.

“With all of that payload above the vehicle’s center of gravity, it’s
going to make it even more unstable,” he said.

Where were the victims taken?
Paramedics took 11 people to area hospitals following the collision.

Seven went to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where one of them died.
The status of three of those patients wasn’t immediately available
Wednesday, but the remaining three were transferred to Pioneer Memorial
Hospital in Brawley.

Of those three, one was released with minor injuries while the other two
were airlifted to Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. They were to be
treated for life-threatening injuries, said Karina Lopez, Pioneers public
affairs liaison.

Scripps Public Relations Manager Steve Carpowich described the two victims
as a woman and teen male. Both are still being treated Wednesday, but
Carpowich said their conditions couldn’t be released due to patient
confidentiality laws.

Four patients are being treated at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm
Springs and spokesman Todd Burke said one of them is in critical
condition. The other three are in stable condition, although one of them
remains in the intensive care unit.

After seeing initial reports on social media, USA TODAY reporters were
able to pinpoint the likely crash location using data from
ADSBexchange.com, an online community claiming the world’s largest public
source of unfiltered flight data. Medical evacuation helicopters circled
the area, possibly picking out a landing location. It appears that
multiple flights took place between hospitals in Palm Springs and San
Diego, and the crash site near Holtville, Calif.

What happens next?
Officer Watson stated he planned to meet with the NTSB, and that
California Highway Patrol's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Teams
have taken over the investigation and will see the investigation through
to its conclusion and determine the cause.

Police pushed reporters back from the scene on the side of Highway 115
near Holtville, Ca., as investigators scan the area from the sky, March 2,
Police pushed reporters back from the scene on the side of Highway 115
near Holtville, Ca., as investigators scan the area from the sky, March 2,
Check here for the latest updates: 'Smuggling' probed: SUV in California
crash entered through hole in border fence, officials say

Leer en español: 13 muertos en un accidente en el cruce fronterizo de
California: ¿Por qué había 25 personas en una camioneta? Una explicación

Interactive map and video: We looked at every mile of the U.S.-Mexico
border. Now you can, too – right here.

Contributing: Jay Calderon and Colin Atagi/The Desert Sun in Palm Springs,
Kate Cimini/The Californian, Javier Zarracina, Grace Hauck, Susan Miller,
Mike James, Emily LeCoz, Karina Zaiets/USA TODAY.

Published 3:42 PM PST Mar. 3, 2021 Updated 6:54 PM PST Mar. 3, 2021

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