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American Scene: Authorities say 14 dead after truck crashes

- - Monday, July 23, 2012

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.

IOWA

Mom of missing girl says she passes polygraph

IOWA CITY — After submitting to a second polygraph test, the mother of one of two missing Iowa cousins said Monday the results should prove that she had nothing to do with their disappearance and allow investigators to focus their attention elsewhere.

Misty Cook-Morrissey said a state agent asked during Monday's polygraph whether she had anything to do with the abduction of her daughter, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and niece, Elizabeth Collins, 8. She said she was asked whether she knows where they are and if she could take investigators to them, adding she answered "no" to all those questions.

"It went well," she said in a phone interview afterward. "They can rule me out of their book and move on to something else."

The girls have been missing since they went for a bike ride July 13 in Evansdale, where their bikes and a purse were found near a lake. An extensive investigation involving local, state and federal agents has failed to find them.

Investigators say they have reason to think the girls were abducted and remain alive, but they will not elaborate. They ruled out the possibility that the girls died in Meyers Lake after an FBI team used sonar equipment to search the bottom.

FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault said Monday that investigators want to interview a person who was paddle-boating on the lake around the time the girls disappeared. She said that person, who has not voluntarily come forward, could help investigators learn what happened to the girls but was not considered a suspect.

CONNECTICUT

Navy radio might be crippling garage doors

HARTFORD — A radio signal being transmitted out of a submarine base is likely behind reports of garage doors failing to open and close in southeastern Connecticut, the U.S. Navy said Monday.

The signal is part of the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio system, which is used by the military to coordinate responses with civil emergency workers, said Chris Zendan, a spokesman for submarine base in Groton.

The problem, first reported by the Day of New London, is that the same frequency is used at very low levels by the manufacturers of garage door openers. The signals from remote controls to open or close the doors are blocked by the signal from the base.

Overhead Door Co. of Norwich Inc. told the newspaper it has been receiving complaints from several towns near the base and has found no problem with its equipment. The Associated Press left messages with the company Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports