Federal authorities initiated a human smuggling investigation into a deadly crash this week that killed 13 individuals as an SUV with more than 25 people inside collided with a tractor-trailer in California.
The crash took place on Tuesday in Imperial County, California, when a maroon SUV pulled in front of a semi-truck that was towing two trailers. Most of the fatalities occurred at the scene while the rest of the passengers and the driver of the tractor-trailer had to be rushed to a local hospital.
In the aftermath, Homeland Security Investigations initiated a human smuggling investigation, the AP reported. A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that Border Patrol agents were not chasing the vehicle at the time of the crash.
Local news outlets initially reported that it was unclear if the crash was tied to human smuggling or if the victims were farmworkers since the area is a busy agricultural region.
Since the crash, authorities revealed that 10 of the fatal victims were Mexican citizens and consular officials are now involved in the case. The region where the crash took place is considered a busy human smuggling corridor since the area is only miles north of the fence that separates Mexico and California.
Officials said the 1997 Ford Expedition had 25 people packed inside. All of the seats except the driver’s and front-seat passenger’s seats had been removed to enable more people to be packed inside.
Former National Transportation Safety Board head Frank Borris told the Associated Press the SUV is rated to carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. With 25 people packed inside, the SUV would be well over the maximum payload making the vehicle more difficult to stop and handle.
“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,” Borris told the AP. “With all of that payload above the vehicle’s center of gravity, it’s going to make it even more unstable.”
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and senior Breitbart management. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.