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2 in custody after crash that killed two near Brawley

January 31, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Two men from the Mexican state of Michoacan are in custody following a crash Tuesday that left two women dead and several other undocumented immigrants injured.

Sebastian Carranza-Martinez, 23, was identified as the driver of a van that pulled in front of a farm labor bus at Highway 86 and Kalin Road north of Brawley about 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Carranza-Martinez was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run, according to a press release from the California Highway Patrol.

A front-seat passenger in the van, Benito Ramirez Reyes, 29, was identified as the smuggler of the group of 13 illegal immigrants and was arrested for conspiracy connected to the same charges.


The van involved in the crash had only a driver and passenger seat with the 13 illegal immigrants riding unrestrained in the back of the vehicle, according to Highway Patrol Officer Scott Oberg.

Carranza-Martinez allegedly pulled in front of a farm labor bus driven by Albert Murga, 31, of Brawley. There were 40 passengers on the bus, Oberg said.

The bus struck the right rear of the van, which caused the sliding door of the van to be knocked off. The van spun out of control, causing several illegal immigrants to fall out, including the two women who died.

Carranza-Martinez and Ramirez fled but were later apprehended with help from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Imperial County Sheriff's Office and the Westmorland and Brawley police departments.

Chief Deputy Coroner Sgt. Rick Macken has tentatively identified one of the women, thought to be an 18-year-old Mexican woman, but was working to contact her parents today.

The other woman who died in the crash has been identified as Sonia Morfin Lopez, 29, of Michoacan, Mexico after Macken located her aunt in Coachella. Macken and Mexican consular employees are working to notify Lopez's husband in Mexico, Macken said.

Those in the van were transported by ambulance to local hospitals.

Angel Medrano, 29, of Azusa, Pitasco Lopez, 33, of Apple Valley, Rosalindo Augustin Perez, 53, of Santa Clarita, Savastian Ramos Perez, 17, of Mexico, Jose Taredes Tlaxa, 26, of Sacramento, Aurora Covarrubia, 28, of Michoacan, Mexico, and Margarita Cisnero Gandela, 29, of Guerrero, Mexico were all taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley with various injuries.

Javier Torres, 35, of Stockton, Oscar Mendez, 17, of Mexico, Soledad Saldana Santos, 25, of North Hollywood and Bernardino Caballero Huerta, 38, of Mexico were all taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center with various injuries.

Two passengers on the farm labor bus were transported to local hospitals. Marina Baraca, 45, of El Centro, was taken to Pioneers after having an anxiety attack, according to the Highway Patrol. Martha Marnto, 29, of El Centro, was taken to El Centro Regional. Information on their conditions was not available this morning.

Highway Patrol officers praised Murga and the company that owns the farm labor bus, Seaside Custom Harvesting Co. of Brawley, for being fully trained and certified to carry farm laborers.

CHP motor carrier inspectors examined the farm labor bus and found it to be in excellent condition mechanically.

Staff Writer Marcy Misner can be reached at 337-3441.

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