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Tragedy ten miles from the border


In an attempt to cross Mexico’s border and into the United States via Southern California, two vehicles sped through a hole cut into a border fence. One was a Chevrolet Suburban, and the other was a  Ford Expedition that was “modified” to fit more people beyond its standard capacity.

The Suburban had 19 people in it. As it entered California, the SUV caught fire. Everyone escaped without injury. The 25 people in the Expedition – ranging in age from 15 to 53 – were not as fortunate. Ten miles into the United States, a large 18-wheel truck collided into the side of the vehicle at an intersection near Holtville, California.

A dangerous and deadly alteration

The “modification” involved removing the seats, leaving only the driver’s and front passenger’s, resulting in many of the unrestrained occupants flying out of the vehicle. More than half of the people in the SUV lost their lives, with the others sustaining a wide range of injuries. Twelve died instantly, including the driver, with the thirteenth victim passing away at the hospital. Human smuggling is suspected but not confirmed.

The 68-year-old truck driver also sustained major injuries, according to a preliminary crash report.

The Expedition was a 1997 model that carries a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. The number of people in the vehicle would exceed that limit, making it unstable and affecting the vehicle’s center of gravity and the driver’s ability to steer and brake.

In the short time it takes for one smaller vehicle to collide with a larger one, life is forever changed. Taking on the complexity of a motor vehicle accident claim without legal help ignores the complex and emotionally-charged issues surrounding such a tragedy. Taking proactive steps by retaining a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney can help put victims of negligent driving on the road to recovery.

To contact us at our El Centro office, call 760-348-8246 or send us an email.