11 killed in Texas crash of overloaded van carrying migrants
Vehicle designed to hold 15 was top-heavy and tipped when driver lost control, sheriff says
An overloaded van carrying about 25 migrants crashed Wednesday on a remote south Texas highway, killing at least 11 people, including the driver, and injuring more than a dozen others, authorities said.
The crash happened shortly after 4 p.m. local time Wednesday on U.S. 281 in Encino, about 80 kilometres north of McAllen.
Brooks County Sheriff Urbino Martinez said the van, designed to hold 15 passengers, was speeding and top-heavy when it tipped over when the driver lost control on a curve. The van was not being pursued, Martinez said.
Martinez said he believed all of the passengers were migrants. Sgt. Nathan Brandley of the Texas Department of Public Safety put the immediate death toll at 11, with more than a dozen others injured.
The identities of the victims were not immediately available, nor was any information about the van, including where it was registered or who owned it.
Encino is a community of about 140 residents about three kilometres south of the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint.
A surge in migrants crossing the border illegally has brought about an uptick in the number of crashes involving vehicles jammed with migrants who pay large amounts to be smuggled into the country.
The Dallas Morning News has reported that the recruitment of young drivers for the smuggling runs, combined with excessive speed and reckless driving by those youths, have led to horrific crashes.
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, told the newspaper that criminal organizations recruit drivers from Austin, Dallas and Houston. Others come from the El Paso area, while others come from parts of Latin America rife with police corruption.
"They're told, 'If you're caught, it'll go bad for you,' " he said.
They'll be picked out of a group of migrants seeking safe passage across the border for a reduction of their smuggling fee, Manjarrez said. They're told to follow a scout vehicle.
One of the deadliest crashes came on March 3, when 13 people were killed when a semi-trailer truck slammed into a sport utility vehicle containing 25 migrants near Holtville, Calif., about 200 kilometres east of San Diego.
On March 17, eight migrants were killed when the pickup truck carrying them crashed into another truck while being pursued by police nearly 50 kilometres north of the border city of Del Rio, Texas. The driver faces a possible life sentence after pleading guilty to multiple federal charges on May 24. No sentencing date has been set.