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Truck traveling with lights off crashes

1 killed, 22 injured

February 05, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — At least 22 undocumented immigrants were injured and one killed this morning near here after a pickup carrying the immigrants was involved in an accident this morning.

Just before 1 a.m. county Sheriff's Office Deputy Charlie Lucas was notified of a pickup headed west in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 8 without its headlights on, said sheriff's Chief Deputy Jim Burns.

The incident was reported to the Sheriff's Office by U.S. Border Patrol agents, who said the truck entered Interstate 8 in the area of Highway 98.

Lucas waited west of there at Highway 115 and saw the pickup pass on Interstate 8 with its headlights still off and still heading the wrong way, Burns said.

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Lucas got into the westbound lane of Interstate 8, sped up and attempted to warn oncoming traffic by turning on his emergency lights and shining a spotlight on the pickup to illuminate it to oncoming traffic. The pickup was traveling around 85-90 mph, Burns said.

Lucas reported at least seven drivers avoided hitting the pickup.

At one point the pickup driver crossed the median into westbound lanes and then back into eastbound lanes, continuing west still without its headlights.

At Orchard Road the pickup driver went onto the shoulder of the highway and the truck rolled, ejecting several people from the bed.

Lucas reported the crash and administered first aid.

Holtville firefighters, Border Patrol agents and California Highway Patrol officers also administered first aid to 23 people with varying degrees of injuries. Information on whether a driver was identified was not available this morning.

One of the passengers, Abel Montes Blanco, 42, of the Mexican state of Guerrero, died at El Centro Regional Medical Center, said County Coroner's Office Investigator Gary Hayes.

Montes and his wife were in the pickup bed, Hayes said.

The other 22 passengers were sent to area hospitals, Hayes said.

A few of the passengers were thought to have been airlifted to San Diego with more serious injuries.

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

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