10 Confirmed Mexican Citizens, 2 Guatemalan Among 13 Dead California Border Crash
HOLTVILLE, Calif. (March 3, 2021) — At least 10 Mexican citizens were among the 13 killed Tuesday in a California border crash on Highway 115 between a gravel truck and a 1997 Ford Expedition packed with 25 people.
At least four women in the burgundy SUV were Guatemalan; two of them died, according to the Los Angeles Times. Twelve people died at the scene and one at the hospital, police said.
Victim killed in crash is identified
Yesenia Magali Melendrez Cardona, 23, of Chiquimulilla, was one of the two Guatemalan women who died in the California border crash.
Her mother, identified as Verlyn Cardona, survived with a severe blow to her head. The mother was among 12 who survived the SUV crash who were taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center, Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California, and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. Some of them are now identified. (see below)
Also seriously injured in the California border crash was the Joe Beltran, 68, of El Centro. He was driving the gravel truck that struck the SUV after the smaller vehicle drove into the path of the truck. He was transported to Desert Regional Medical Center.
Jairo Dueñas, 28, of Mexicali, Mexico, who was driving the SUV, was also among those who died in the crash. The SUV involved had only two front seats, but the rest of its body was open to allow some 25 people to ride in the back. Those inside the vehicle ranged in age from 15 to 53 years old, authorities said.
The Imperial County crash happened about 6:15 a.m. on State Route 115 and Norrish Road in Holtville, according to the Associated Press.
Migrant smuggling operation suspected in border crash
Meanwhile, detectives with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Investigations team are investigating whether human smuggling operation was involved. The area where the collision took place is known to be a route for illegal border crossings and is close to the U.S. Mexico border. Additionally, the 1997 Ford Expedition reportedly drove through a gap in a border fence just prior to the collision.
The SUV was one of two, including a Chevrolet Suburban, that illegally crossed the border into the United States. Also, immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations team looking into the circumstances. The Chevrolet was transporting 19 people and caught on fire for unknown reasons roughly 15 minutes before the Ford crashed. Border Patrol agents located the occupants hiding nearby.
Furthermore, the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner office is working to identity all the victims who died in the California border crash.
Additionally, the CHP will determine fault for the crash after the investigation is completed.
Here is a list of of those injured
- Rene Zelando, 30, of Nayarit, Mexico. Major injuries. (UC San Diego Medical Center).
- Berti Orozco, 21, of Guatemala City, Guatemala. Major injuries. (UC San Diego Medical Center).
- Zeterina Mendoza, 33, Guerrero, Mexico. Major injuries. (UC San Diego Medical Center).
- Camillo Rodriguez, 44, of Santa Maria Del Oro, Mexico. Major injuries. (UC San Diego Medical Center).
- A 16-year-old from Guerrero, Mexico. Major injuries. (Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego County).
- Berlin Cardona, 46, of Guatemala City, Guatemala. Major injuries. (Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego County).
- Darlin Liliana Robledo, 20, of Tapachula, Mexico. Moderate injuries. (El Centro Regional Medical Center in El Centro, California).
- Avelardo Nava, 18, of Guerrero, Mexico. Moderate injuries. (Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California).
- Manuel Rufino, 39, of Oaxaca, Mexico. Moderate injuries. (Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California).
- Jorge Gutierrez Martinez, 24. Major injuries. (Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California.
- Esteban Montiel, 22. Treated for major injuries at (Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California).
- “Jane Doe,” 15. Major injuries. (Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California).
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the crash. Johnson Attorneys Group is a longtime supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Our law firm does not represent any of the parties mentioned above. Furthermore, it’s not our intent to represent any of the parties. However, if you would like to contribute to this story or you have legal questions, please contact us.