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13 people killed in Imperial County SUV crash identified

California Highway Crash Imperial County Holtville SUV
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Posted at 11:27 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 14:27:05-05

(KGTV) — Authorities have identified the 13 people who were killed when an SUV carrying 25 people was broadsided by a big rig in Imperial County this month.

The 1997 Ford Expedition SUV was traveling on state Route 115 at Norrish Road, just outside of Holtville, at around 6:15 a.m. when for unknown reasons it collided with a big rig on March 2, according to California Highway Patrol.

Officials said 12 people died at the scene and one person died at the hospital. Those victims were identified as Carolina Ramirez Perez, 32; Jesus Gilberto Romero Rojas, 19; Yesenia Magali Melendrez Cardona, 23; Raquel Aparicio Martinez, 39; Maria Isabel Boyzo Patino, 34; Rosalia Garcia Gonzalez, 32; Magdalena Elizabeth Lopez Escobar, 20; Maria Guadalupe Mendez Vargas, 49; Felix Josefino Medina Rodriguez, 53; Jose Rogelio Orozco Mendez, 51; Jairo De Jesus Landin Duenas, 23; Gumaro Samuel Ramirez Cortez, 39; and Arnulfo Talavera Mora, 42.


Another 12 people were left injured in the crash. The boy and a woman from Guatemala are reportedly being treated at Scripps Mercy, while four others are reportedly being treated at UC San Diego with major injuries including two men and a woman from Mexico and another woman from Guatemala.

Officials say the crash is being investigated as a human smuggling incident, adding that the SUV was one of two seen on surveillance video going through a hole in the border fence the morning of the crash. The vehicle had been stripped of nearly all of its seats. The other SUV seen on video reportedly caught fire, but those who were inside of it made it out safely and were detained.

Border Patrol officials say the vehicle was not part of a pursuit prior to the crash, but immigration rights advocates have said they have questions.

“Border Patrol's word is not enough,” Alliance San Diego's Executive Director Andrea Guererro told ABC 10News on Thursday. The immigrants’ rights advocates said that although border agents deny any involvement before the crash, they still have questions about whether there was a chase.