US Launches Smuggling Probe into Deadly California Crash

Photo: South China Morning Post


The traffic collision that killed 13 people in California near the border with Mexico on Tuesday, March 2, is now under human smuggling investigation by U.S. federal agency, local media reported Wednesday, March, 3.

The burgundy Ford Expedition crossed the U.S. border with Mexico by driving through a hole cut into the border fence early Tuesday, March 2, local news channel KTLA reported, citing an undisclosed surveillance video of U.S. Border Patrol in El Centro.

The eight-seat Ford filled with 25 people collided with an empty truck at a highway intersection around 6:15 a.m. in Imperial County after driving 17.7 km northbound from the border, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Twelve people died at the scene and one died later in hospital.

The Mexican Consulate in Calexico confirmed Tuesday night that at least 10 of the 13 dead were Mexican nationals.

“Special agents from Homeland Security Investigations San Diego responded to the scene of the atal crash … and have initiated a human smuggling investigation,” said Macario Mora, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Yuma and El Centro, in a statement to the L.A. Times.

The cause of crash remains unknown.

Mora noted that investigation is ongoing and no further details are available at the time.

Rear seats of the 1997 Ford Expedition, which can carry a maximum payload of 907 kilograms or eight passengers, had been removed, Omar Watson, chief of the California Highway Patrol’s border division, told KTLA.

A photo posted by KTLA reporter Chip Yost showed that a section of the border fence with eight steel poles that should have been planted into the ground was lifted and left outside.

“Just got this picture from U.S. Border Patrol. This is a breach in the border fence where (the Ford) SUV with 25 people in it may have entered into the United States,” Yost tweeted.

Roberto Velasco Álvarez, head of the North America Department of Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) said on Twitter that his department was “in close collaboration with (U.S.) authorities, with the aim of assisting the Mexican people killed and injured.”

…March 5, 2021

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