Driver may have died in crash that injured 24

February 06, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — California Highway Patrol officers are investigating the possibility that a man who died in a crash near here Monday in which 24 other illegal immigrants were injured was the driver of that vehicle.

Highway Patrol Officer Jose Salazar said the injuries sustained by Abel Montes Blanco, 42, of the Mexican state of Guerrero, could place the victim in the driver's seat of the pickup.

Salazar said the driver's side of the cab was crushed and Montes sustained the worst injuries among those in the vehicle, leading investigators to theorize Montes may have been the driver.

Montes died about 3 a.m. in El Centro Regional Medical Center, said county Coroner's Office Investigator Gary Hayes, whose office is assisting the CHP in its investigation.


According to a press release from the Highway Patrol, the pickup was speeding west in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 8 about 1 a.m. Monday when it crashed near Orchard Road.

A county Sheriff's Office deputy warned oncoming traffic of the hazard after the wrong-way driver was reported to the Sheriff's Office by U.S. Border Patrol agents who reported the truck entered Interstate 8 in the area of Highway 98.

The pickup was traveling around 85-90 mph and at least seven drivers avoided hitting the pickup, which was traveling the wrong direction with no headlights.

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

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

Montes was also ejected from the truck.

County sheriff's deputies, Holtville firefighters, Border Patrol agents and Highway Patrol officers administered first aid.

According to the Highway Patrol, the rest of the passengers suffered only minor injures and several opted to seek medical aid on their own. They were Ramiro Franco, 18, Augustin Navarro, 30, Lorenzo Luna, 18, and Rodolfo Jauregui, 18, all of the Mexican state of Jalisco, Junior Santo, 25, of Brazil, Luis Quesada, 18, of Mexico, Juan Berra, 32, of Mexico City and Angel Martinez, 36, of the Mexican state of Puebla.

Taken to El Centro Regional with minor injuries were Ricardo Barba, 19, of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Justin Alvarez, 33, of Mexico, Baltazar Meraz, 31, of Mexicali, Luis Cevallos, 18, of the Mexican state of Yucatan and Dolores Ramirez, 50, and Gonzalo Murrieta, 37, both of the Mexican state of Michoacan.

Taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley with minor injuries were Dolores Quesada, 38, of the Mexican state of Yucatan, Luz Ibarra, 35, of Tijuana, Lucia Marin, 45, of Michoacan, Luis Jauregui, 18, of Mexicali, Annabel Lopez, 26, and Juan Berra, 33, both of Mexico City, Maribel Lasquez, 19, of Guadalajara, Julio Soliz, 22, of Jalisco, Consuelo Mendoza, 29, of Mexico and Jose Gomez, 35, of Brazil.

Montes' wife, whose name was not available, was among those with minor injuries.

None of those injured in the accident was detained by the Border Patrol.

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

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