SUV Smuggling 25 People Entered U.S. Through Hole in Border Fence Before Deadly Crash
Holtville, CA – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have confirmed that the victims in yesterday’s deadly crash were being smuggled at the time of the collision.
On Wednesday, CBP released additional information about Tuesday’s crash between a Ford Expedition SUV transporting dozens of illegal immigrants and a Peterbilt semi-truck at the intersection of State Route 115 and Norrish Road near Holtville, approximately 11 miles from the U.S./Mexico border.
According to officials, those being transported in the Ford SUV were from Mexico and part of a human smuggling operation.
Investigators said that at 6:05 a.m., agents discovered a 10-foot hole had been cut in the International Boundary Fence between Mexico and the United States near the Gordon’s Well exit/Schneider’s Bride area just off Interstate 8, approximately 30 miles east of the Highway 115/I-8 interchange.
A red Suburban with at least 19 people inside, along with the Ford SUV transporting at least 25 people, drove through the hole and crossed into the U.S. illegally early Tuesday morning.
Notably, the fence that was breached is not part of the Trump Administration’s border wall.
CBP explained that the reason the smuggling operation was not detected at the time was because “agents were actively working border incursions to the east and west of where the breach occurred.”
At approximately 5:56 a.m., just before the hole was discovered, the Suburban was found engulfed in flames near the intersection of Interstate 8 and State Route 115 near Calexico.
The cause of the fire has not yet been disclosed.
CBP said those being smuggled in the Suburban were hiding in the brush along the roadway when agents arrived to the scene.
Border officials said they then received a call at 7:05 a.m. about the crash between the Ford SUV and the semi-truck.
CBP reported 12 victims were declared deceased at the scene and another victim died at a nearby hospital.
Additionally, more than a half dozen others were also transported to nearby hospitals including the truck driver who is reported to have moderate injuries.
The trucker’s identity has not yet been released nor have the identities of the deceased victims.
Those killed in the crash reportedly range in age from 15 to 53 and are a mix of males and females.
The Crash Investigation
CBP has turned over the crash investigation to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
However, following the crash, many people were left wondering how so many people were able to fit inside the Ford SUV.
In Transportation Nation Network’s extensive reporting on smuggling operations we have learned smugglers often strip the interior of these vehicles and build numerous compartments allowing them to layer people inside.
After completing an initial investigation, CHP Border Division Chief Omar Watson confirmed that was the case in this instance as the vehicle only had front seats.
CHP investigators have not yet indicated what caused the driver of the SUV to pull in front of the Peterbilt.
However, it has been reported that the Ford’s payload was 2,000 lbs. and loading it with so many people likely compromised the braking functionality and maneuverability.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow the latest developments.