At least 13 die as SUV hits big rig in Calif.

- Grace Hauck and Colin Atagi Contributi­ng: Emily LeCoz and Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY Colin Atagi reported from Holtville for The Desert Sun. Grace Hauck reported from Chicago for USA TODAY.

HOLTVILLE, Calif. – At least 13 people died after an SUV packed with dozens of passengers collided with a semitruck near the U.S.-Mexican border Tuesday, according to California Highway Patrol officials.

CHP Division Chief Omar Watson said the crash involved a big rig hauling two trailers and a Ford Expedition carrying 25 people. The vehicles collided before 6:15 a.m. PST at the intersecti­on of State Route 115 and Norrish Road near Holtville, about 50 miles west of Arizona and 10 miles north of the border.

“It would be premature for me to speculate or discuss what caused this collision. What we have to keep in mind is that 13 people died in this crash,” Watson said. “It’s a very sad situation.”

Twelve people died at the scene, including the SUV driver, and one died at a hospital, Watson said. There were children in the SUV, but none of them died, he said. The ages of the people injured range from 16 to 55, and the ages of the people who died ranged from 20 to 55, Watson said.

Several people were thrown from the SUV, and others “were able to pull themselves out of the vehicles,” Watson said. The older-model Ford Expedition should fit only six people, he said.

“Obviously, that vehicle is not meant for that many people. It’s unfortunat­e that that number of people were put into that vehicle,” Watson said.

Seven patients were taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where one person died, emergency room managing director Judy Cruz said in a Facebook Live video Tuesday. The hospital called for air support to transport patients to other facilities, she said.

Two patients were taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California, Cruz said.

Four patients were airlifted to the trauma center at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California, hospital spokespers­on Todd Burke said. Three were in intensive care.

The driver of the big rig sustained moderate injuries and was among the patients taken to Desert Regional Medical Center, Watson said.

“The patients are, of course, going through a little bit of a difficult time as you can imagine,” said Adolphe Edward, chief executive officer at El Centro Regional Medical Center. “This is a major accident. We are taking care of them in the emergency room department.”

Cruz said the big rig had been carrying gravel.

The California Highway Patrol worked with the Mexican consulate to “determine who exactly was in the vehicle,” Watson said. He said what’s “important to me is to make sure the families are notified and that we do a thorough investigat­ion so that we know what the cause of the collision was.”

The highway was expected to be closed all day, Watson said.

 ?? GREGORY BULL/AP ?? Law enforcemen­t officers work at the scene of a deadly crash in Holtville, Calif., on Tuesday where a semitruck crashed into an SUV.
GREGORY BULL/AP Law enforcemen­t officers work at the scene of a deadly crash in Holtville, Calif., on Tuesday where a semitruck crashed into an SUV.

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