HOLTVILLE, Mar 03 (AP): An SUV packed with 25 people pulled in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer on a two-lane highway cutting through farmland near the U.S-Mexico border early Tuesday, killing 13 and leaving bodies strewn across the roadway. Most of the dead were Mexicans, a Mexican official said.
When police arrived, some of the passengers were trying to crawl out of the crumpled 1997 Ford Expedition while others were wandering around the fields. The rig's front end was pushed into the SUV's left side and two empty trailers were jackknifed behind it.
Twelve people were found dead when first responders reached the highway, which winds through fields in the agricultural southeastern corner of California about 125 miles (201 kilometers) east of San Diego. Another person died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said.
"It was a pretty chaotic scene," said Watson, who also described it as "a very sad situation."
Roberto Velasco, director of North American affairs for Mexico's Foreign Relations Department, confirmed Tuesday on his Twitter account that at least 10 of those killed have been identified as Mexicans. No identities have been released.
The cause of the collision was unclear, authorities said, and it also was not immediately known why so many people were crammed into a vehicle built to hold eight people safely.
Watson said the SUV only had front seats - the middle and back seats had been removed. That would allow more people to fit into the vehicle but makes it even more unsafe.
As the investigation unfolds, authorities will seek to answer whether the SUV was carrying migrants after they crossed the border as part of a smuggling operation, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or being used for some other purpose.
Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said agents were not pursing the SUV at the time of the crash, which was initially rumored He said the immigration status of the passengers was unknown and being investigated.
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