An overloaded van carrying 29 migrants crashed on an isolated South Texas highway on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, including the driver, and injuring 20 others, authorities said.
The crash happened shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday on US 281 in Encino, Texas, about 50 miles north of McAllen. Sgt. Nathan Brandley, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the van, designed to hold 15 passengers, accelerated as the driver attempted to exit the freeway on Trade Route 281. He lost control of the heavy van , which struck a metal utility pole and a stop sign.
The van was not being prosecuted, Brooks County Sheriff Urbino said.
Martinez said he believed all of the passengers were migrants. Brandley said the death toll was originally announced at 11 but was later revised. He also said the 20 who survived the initial crash all have serious to critical injuries.
The identities of the 30 people in the van were withheld until relatives could be informed, Brandley said. No information about the van, including its place of registration or owner, was immediately disclosed.
Encino is a community of about 140 people about 3 km south of the Falfurrias border patrol checkpoint.
An increase in the number of migrants crossing the border illegally has led to an increase in the number of accidents involving vehicles crowded with migrants paying large sums to be smuggled into the country. The Dallas Morning News reported that the recruitment of young drivers for the smuggling routes, combined with the excessive speeding and reckless driving of these young people, has led to horrific accidents.
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, told the newspaper that criminal organizations are recruiting drivers in Austin, Dallas and Houston. Others come from the El Paso region, while others come from areas of Latin America plagued by police corruption.
“They are told, ‘If you get caught, it will be bad for you,'” he said.
They will be chosen from a group of migrants seeking safe passage across the border for a reduction in their smuggling costs, Manjarrez said. They are told to follow a reconnaissance vehicle.
“It’s not bad for a few hours of work,” Manjarrez said.
One of the deadliest crashes occurred on March 3, when 13 people were killed when a tractor-trailer crashed into a sport utility vehicle containing 25 migrants near Holtville, Calif., About 125 miles to the east of San Diego.
On March 17, eight migrants were killed when the van carrying them crashed into another truck as it was being chased by police nearly 30 miles north of the border town of Del Rio, Texas. The driver faces a life sentence after pleading guilty to several federal charges on May 24. No sentencing date has been set.