Fourteen people died and another nine were injured after a pickup truck overloaded with passengers left a highway and crashed into trees in a rural South Texas community Sunday, authorities said.
The white Ford F-250 pickup was heading north on U.S. 59 when it went off the road and struck two large trees Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in the unincorporated community of Berclair, about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio, said Gerald Bryant, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
DPS officials said a dozen people were taken to various hospitals in San Antonio, Victoria, and Corpus Christi. Bryant said several of the surviving victims had life-threatening injuries. He did not have their conditions, but said he believed them to be "very serious."
The agency said 23 people, including some children, were in the cab and bed of the truck.
Eleven people died at the scene and three more died after being taken to a hospital. Two of the victims were described as "young children." Six of the dead were found inside the truck. The five others were ejected from the back of the vehicle.
State troopers and Goliad County sheriff's investigators were investigating what prompted the one-vehicle crash, and have not released names and ages of the victims. Most of them were from Honduras, Bryant said.
"This is the most people I've seen in any passenger vehicle, and I've been an officer for 38 years," Bryant said, referring to the chaotic scene. "The accident scene with all the officers in there, it was a very solemn scene. All of the victims were treated with respect. It's almost unbelievable the number of injured and killed in this crash."
Crash investigators were on the scene for eight hours assessing the crash, which halted traffic on U.S. 59.
"It's a straight road. Pavement was dry. Weather was clear. What caused him to run off the road? That's under investigation," Bryan said.
The initial investigation points to a tire blowout.
The pickup truck was registered to a west Houston man. KPRC Local 2 tracked down that man, and he said he sold the pickup truck about three months ago. He declined to provide any proof of the transaction. State records do not reflect any change in ownership, but it may have been sold and the new owner may not have registered it.
The registered owner of the vehicle said none of his family members were hurt or killed in the crash.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the border patrol were assisting in the investigation. Officials have not said if the vehicle was being used to transport illegal immigrants into the United States.