Feds Seek Tips from Public to Identify Smugglers of 13 who Died in Crash


SAN DIEGO, CA – Federal officials are asking for the public’s help in identifying the smugglers whose actions led to the deaths of 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals in a crash of an overloaded vehicle on March 2 near Holtville, California.

The tip line number is (760) 335-5343.

U.S. Border Patrol was notified of the crash by the California Highway Patrol at about 6:30 a.m. on March 2. In a subsequent review of border surveillance camera footage, Border Patrol agents discovered that a 10-foot section of the border fence had been cut and at least two SUVs had driven northbound through the open section.

Border Patrol agents located one of the SUVs broken down on Interstate 8 near Holtville. Agents arrested 19 undocumented migrants located beside the disabled vehicle. Shortly thereafter, agents found the second SUV at the crash scene on Norrish Road at Highway 115, a remote stretch of road used mostly by farmers. Twelve people died at the crash site; one died later. Multiple individuals were airlifted to hospitals with significant injuries. A 23-year-old daughter died in her mother’s arms at the scene of the crash.

“This tragic case is a grim reminder that putting your faith and future in the hands of smugglers is a very dangerous gamble,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Smugglers are motivated by greed and care nothing for the people they put in harm’s way. We will aggressively prosecute smugglers who recklessly cause deaths.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is conducting a criminal investigation into the human smuggling networks that callously and repeatedly place human lives in danger, such as the events that resulted in death during the March 2nd smuggling incident,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge for HSI in San Diego. “HSI is asking for the public’s help in bringing the people responsible for the activity that led to the tragedy on March 2nd to justice by providing any information to the HSI Calexico tipline at (760) 335-5343.”

Federal officials wish to thank the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates for their assistance in notifying family members of those individuals who died in the crash and in identifying and contacting family members of those hospitalized as a result of this tragedy.

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