15 killed in crash involving big rig and SUV carrying 27 illegal aliens near U.S.-Mexico border

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Leroy N. Soetoro

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Mar 4, 2021, 4:38:07 PM3/4/21
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https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-02/mass-fatality-crash-
reported-on-imperial-county-highway

A collision between a semitruck and an SUV carrying more than two dozen
people near the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday morning has left 15 dead and
several others injured, officials said.

Twenty-seven people were in the SUV when it struck a tractor-trailer
hauling gravel, said Judy Cruz, the El Centro Regional Medical Center’s
emergency department director.

Fourteen people died at the scene. One more died at El Centro Regional
Medical Center, where six others are being treated, Cruz said. At least
five more have been flown from the scene to other treatment centers, she
said.

“The patients are, of course, going through a little bit of a difficult
time,” said Adolphe Edward, chief executive of El Centro Regional Medical
Center. “This was a major accident, and we are taking care of them in the
emergency room department.”

Photos from the scene show a burgundy SUV, with the driver’s side wrapped
around the front of the semitruck. The SUV’s windshield is shattered, and
debris is scattered on the ground around the two vehicles.

Four people were airlifted by helicopter to the Desert Regional Medical
Center in Palm Springs, where three of them are in intensive care,
hospital public information officer Todd Burke said.

Deputy Fire Chief Sal Flores said the Imperial County Fire Department and
the county’s Office of Emergency Services responded to a “mass fatality
incident” at 6:16 a.m.

El Centro Fire Department units are also on the scene, along with Customs
and Border Patrol officers, who are assisting the Imperial County
Sheriff’s Office.

Fifteen first responders and five fire engines arrived at the scene off
Highway 115, just north of Holtville, Flores said. A helicopter whirred
overhead as he responded to questions Tuesday morning about the crash.

Highway 115 is currently blocked, heading north from Holtville, he said.


The cause of the crash was not immediately available, but for decades,
there have been concerns about the high death toll in crashes along the
California-Mexico border. Many of the wrecks involve immigrants trying to
cross into the U.S., with a significant number of crashes occurring during
chases by American authorities.

There is no evidence this collision involved a chase.

A Los Angeles Times-ProPublica investigation in 2018 found that over three
years, U.S. Border Patrol agents engaged in more than 500 pursuits in
border districts in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Of those,
one in three ended in a crash. In agricultural areas of California, such
as Imperial County and the Central Valley, there also have been concerns
about deaths involving farmworkers packed into vehicles.

A series of horrific crashes involving farmworkers in vans in the Central
Valley sparked legislation in the early 2000s requiring vans and buses
that transport nine or more workers to be equipped with passenger seat
belts and receive annual safety certification from the California Highway
Patrol. The laws also stepped up penalties and education programs for
growers.



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