Multiple people dead after SUV, big rig collide in Imperial County

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Posted at 8:38 AM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 02:47:16-05

(KGTV) -- Multiple people were killed after a big rig and an SUV collided on an Imperial County highway Tuesday morning.

California Highway Patrol officials said the crash on state Route 115 at Norrish Road, just outside of Holtville, was reported at around 6:15 a.m.

Officials said a big rig hauling gravel was traveling northbound on SR-115, while a maroon Ford Expedition SUV was westbound on Norrish Road, when a collision occurred.

While the exact cause of the crash is under investigation, CHP officials said the big rig collided with the driver’s side of the SUV at the intersection of SR-115 and Norrish Road. It is unknown how fast either vehicle was traveling at the time of the crash.

The CHP said 12 people died at the scene and one person later passed away upon arrival at a hospital. The driver of the SUV, who authorities say died at the scene, hasn't yet been identified, but CHP said Tuesday night that he is a 28-year-old from Mexicali, Baja California.

Officials said some of the victims were ejected from the SUV and died at the scene, while some died inside the vehicle. Other SUV occupants suffered various injuries, and they were transported to area hospitals.

CHP said first responders had to cut the right front seat out of the car to get individuals out. The agency added that the vehicle had no back seats.

In a statement, UC San Diego Health said they have received three patients from El Centro Regional Medical Center:

"As of noon today, UC San Diego Health has received three patients transferred from El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC) via air ambulance. One more patient is in the process of being transferred. The patients are being cared for in the Level 1 Trauma Center located in Hillcrest. Due to privacy protections, patient conditions will not be given unless authorized by the patients.

The patients were injured as result of a multi-casualty vehicular crash that was reported around 6:30 a.m. just about 10 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border at Calexico, El Centro California.

ECRMC is an affiliate of UC San Diego Health. ECRMC has access to tertiary and quaternary care services of UC San Diego Health. These services include highly specialized and advanced diagnostic, imaging, surgical, transplant, oncologic and cardiac services typically only found in academic health centers. Additionally, UC San Diego Health doctors are embedded within the Emergency Department of ECRMC."

The driver, who was the only occupant in the big rig truck, suffered moderate injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment. He was later identified as 68-year-old Joe Beltran of El Cantro.

CHP says several people who were injured have been released from the hospital with minor injuries. The condition of the others is unknown at this time.

CHP officials said they believe there were 25 people inside the SUV at the time of the crash. Officials confirmed there were children in the SUV, but no other information on the children was released.

The CHP noted that the age range for the injured and deceased was 15-53.

Earlier in the morning, officials with the El Centro Regional Medical Center initially reported the incident involved an SUV with 27 passengers inside and a truck hauling gravel.

At the time, ECRMC officials said 14 people were declared dead at the scene, while three people were airlifted from the crash site.