A van carrying what authorities believe to be illegal immigrants crashed in Texas on Wednesday, killing the driver and nine of the 29 passengers.
Sgt. Nathan Brandley of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the van was designed to hold 15 passengers, according to KRTK-TV.
Instead, about 30 people were in the van when it went off of Highway 281 in Encino, Brandley said.
Brandley said the van did not have seats or any type of passenger restraint.
About 20 passengers went to local hospitals, Brandley said. Some were listed in critical condition, according to Reuters.
The van was attempting a right turn while traveling at a high rate of speed when it struck a metal utility pole and then a stop sign, CBS News reported.
“They were traveling at a speed way too fast to try to maneuver that curve and went into the metal utility pole,” Brandley said, according to NBC News.
He said authorities were acting on the assumption that most of the people in the overcrowded van were illegal immigrants.
“We’re trying to ID everybody and also go through the Mexican consulate to confirm if they are from out of the country or not,” he said.
There was no pursuit taking place at the time of the crash, Lt. Chris Olivarez with the Texas Department of Public Safety said, according to Fox News.
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, said criminal organizations recruit drivers to smuggle illegal immigrants, often from among the ranks of those trying to cross the border illegally in exchange for a lower fee to be smuggled across.
“They’re told, ‘If you’re caught, it’ll go bad for you,'” he said.
UPDATE: There were 30 people confirmed inside the van that crashed south of Encino near a Border Patrol checkpoint, 20 transferred to area hospitals and 10 who died.https://t.co/LnURJFSv0s
— The Monitor (@monitornews) August 5, 2021
The crash is not the first involving a van overloaded with suspected illegal immigrants.
In March, 13 people were killed when a van stuffed with migrants collided with a tractor-trailer in California.
The Texas crash came after a federal judge had stayed enforcement of an order from Gov. Greg Abbott that would allow Texas authorities to stop vehicles suspected of carrying illegal immigrants.
Abbott’s action came amid an unprecedented spike in illegal immigration that began when the Biden administration relaxed former President Donald Trump’s strong border policies.
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