Authorities seek help identifying smugglers in deadly Imperial County crash

California Highway Crash Imperial County Holtville SUV
Posted at 5:09 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 20:09:36-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Federal prosecutors in San Diego put a call out Wednesday for the public's help in identifying alleged human smugglers at the center of the deadly Imperial County traffic crash that killed 13 people and injured several others.

The March 2 crash near Holtville killed 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals when an SUV carrying the victims crashed into a tractor trailer at the intersection of Norrish Road and state Route 115.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that following a review of border surveillance camera footage, it appears two SUVs drove through a cut-open portion of border fence sometime prior to the crash.

One of the SUVs broke down on Interstate 8 near Holtville and 19 undocumented immigrants were arrested there by U.S. Border Patrol agents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The other SUV was involved in the fatal wreck, with a dozen victims dying at the crash scene and another who died at a hospital. Several others were airlifted to hospitals with "significant injuries," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Officials are seeking tips regarding the identities of the alleged smugglers, with a tip line phone number available at 760-335-5343.

"This tragic case is a grim reminder that putting your faith and future in the hands of smugglers is a very dangerous gamble," U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. "Smugglers are motivated by greed and care nothing for the people they put in harm's way. We will aggressively prosecute smugglers who recklessly cause deaths."