'It would be premature of me to speculate on what happened at this collision.
Barely a mile from where an SUV packed with 25 people struck a tractor-trailer - killing 13 inside - a cemetery with unmarked bricks is a burial ground for migrants who died crossing the border from Mexico to remote California desert. 'We owe it to the families of those that were killed and injured as well at the public to conduct a complete and thorough investigation'. A preliminary analysis of the incident conducted by the authorities indicated that the Ford pulled out in front of the big rig. The passengers in the SUV ranged in age from 15 to 53, he said.
"It's too early in the investigation to say what they were doing and where they were coming from", Omar Watson of the California Highway Patrol said during a Tuesday afternoon press briefing. He did not identify the nationalities of the injured, but said that authorities had reached out to the Mexican Consulate for help, and that it was not yet clear whether any of the passengers were American citizens.
The area of the state is a thoroughfare for Mexican immigrants and farmworkers headed north towards California's rich agricultural center, but officials said it was still unknown whether the passengers were migrants. The driver of the semitruck had moderate injuries. The trailers he was pulling were not loaded, Watson said.
The crash occurred around 6:15 a.m. under a clear, sunny sky at an intersection just outside Holtville, about 11 miles (18 kilometers) north of the border. Local hospital officials initially said 15 people died from the crash, but the California Highway Patrol later lowered the figure.
"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", said Frank Borris, former head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation.
"There are numerous people that were ejected onto the roadway as a result of this collision, so part of our message is to make sure that we get out to our communities and make sure that safety restraints are part of the picture to save lives".
The SUV, a Ford Expedition, was carrying 25 people in total, including the driver, even though it is rated for a capacity of eight in total.
Since the area of the crash is close to San Diego and given that at least ten of the SUV occupants were from Mexico, it is believed they were workers going into the city for an assignment. The injured passengers had been taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center; Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California; and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California. UC San Diego Health said it received three patients transferred from ECRMC via air ambulance.
"Patients are going through a hard time as you can imagine", Adolphe Edward, the CEO of El Centro Regional Medical Center, told CNN. "One person passed over at the hospital for a total of 13 people that passed away".
U.S. authorities are now working with the Mexican Consulate to determine who was in the SUV and notify their next of kin.
The awful collision took place Tuesday morning north of the city of Holtville, according to the Imperial County Fire Department.
'NTSB's investigator-in-charge expected to arrive Wednesday, will later be joined by two other investigators'.