American Scene: Authorities say 14 dead after truck crashes

McALLEN — A pickup truck overloaded with illegal immigrants veered off a highway and crashed into trees in rural South Texas, killing at least 14 people and leaving nine injured, authorities said Monday.

Federal immigration agents were looking into the human smuggling aspect of the case, while public safety authorities investigated the cause of the Sunday evening crash in Goliad County, about 150 miles northeast of the border with Mexico.

The pickup crammed with 23 immigrants from Mexico and Central America crashed less than an hour’s drive from the site of the nation’s most deadly immigrant smuggling case, where 19 immigrants died in 2003 after being placed in a sweltering trailer.

“This is the most people I’ve seen in any passenger vehicle, and I’ve been an officer for 38 years,” Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Gerald Bryant said.

The driver was among the 11 found dead at the scene, Bryant said, adding that investigators were trying to confirm his name.

Six of those who died in the crash were still inside the cab of the mangled vehicle and one more remained in the truck’s bed when emergency crews arrived at the scene, Mr. Bryant said. Others were scattered on the roadway and in a ditch between the pavement and the fence line where the truck stopped. Mr. Bryant said he saw at least two young children among the dead.

There was very little in the way of belongings or identification, he said.

ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said that among the 11 men and three females who died were citizens of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

ARIZONA

Feds: Helicopter in fatal crash hit cable

CAMP VERDE — Federal investigators say a helicopter that crashed in Arizona, killing four people, struck a cable spanning the Verde River.

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board says the helicopter had been flying low through a canyon June 30 when it crashed near the town of Camp Verde.

Investigators found the helicopter lying on its side in the center of the river. A cable pulley system that sits about 50 feet above the river was found north of the wreckage.

The NTSB says the edge of the two main rotor blades had cable marks about 3 feet from the tips.

A final report on what caused the crash isn’t expected anytime soon.

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