NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal March 2 crash near Holtville

This aerial photo shows vehicles' final rest locations at the scene of March 2’s fatal collision at the intersection of State Route 115 and Norrish Road, near Holtville. PHOTO CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL

HOLTVILLE – The 28-year-old driver of the 1997 Ford Expedition carrying himself and 24 passengers apparently did stop or nearly stop before turning from Norrish Road onto State Route 115 in front of the oncoming semi that broadsided the SUV.

That was one of the findings of a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the March 2 collision, which killed Jairo de Jesús Landín Dueñas and 12 of his passengers.

NTSB said that in addition to the driver, occupants of the Expedition were a passenger in the right front seat, and 23 passengers in the rear compartment.  The seats had been removed from the SUV's rear compartment, and NTSB said it is unknown how the 23 passengers were positioned in that part of the vehicle.

About 6:14 a.m., the Expedition was traveling west on Norrish Road as it approached the stop sign at SR-115. Meanwhile, a 2011 Peterbilt truck-tractor, in combination with a semitrailer bottom dump and a pull-trailer bottom dump (combination vehicle), was traveling north on SR-115 and approaching the intersection with Norrish Road. The posted speed limit on 115 is 65 miles per hour with a reduction to 55 mph for vehicles when towing, NTSB noted. Traffic on 115 does not have a stop sign at the intersection.

As previously reported, the unloaded combination vehicle belonged to El Centro-based Haven & Sons Trucking Inc., and was driven by Joe Beltran, 68.

Beltran reportedly told investigators the SUV stopped or slowed to a near stop at the stop sign, then accelerated onto SR-115 in front of the semi. Beltran then applied the brakes and skidded until the front of his vehicle collided with the left side of the SUV, according to the report.

NTSB said the vehicles came to rest with the truck-tractor and the SUV off the road in the northwest quadrant of the intersection. The two trailers attached to the combination vehicle blocked the southbound lane and shoulder of SR-115.

“The impact left the front of the truck-tractor significantly intruding into the left side of the SUV,” the report said.

Eleven of the 23 passengers in the rear compartment were ejected during the crash, NTSB said.

NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal March 2 crash near Holtville

Final rest positions of the semi and SUV, showing impact and crash damage to SUV. PHOTO CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL

“The SUV driver and the front passenger were reportedly wearing their lap/shoulder belts, and both frontal airbags deployed,” the report said.

The roadway and weather conditions were dry, and it was daylight at the time of the crash, NTSB said.

All 25 occupants of the Expedition were undocumented migrants from Mexico and Guatemala. The Expedition was one of two SUVs, the other a GMC Yukon (identified in previous reports as a Suburban) carrying 19 passengers, that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border fence March 2 through a 10-foot breach near the Gordon’s Well exit/Schneider’s Bridge area just off Interstate 8, approximately 30 miles east of the SR-115/I-8 interchange.

Border Patrol agents found the Yukon aflame near the SR-115/I-8 interchange. They also found the vehicle’s 19 occupants hiding in the brush nearby.

On March 30, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a 47-year-old Mexicali man with coordinating the smuggling attempt. Jose Cruz Noguez, who as legal permanent residency status in the United States, was indicted for conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States outside a port of entry causing serious bodily injury/placing a life in jeopardy and bringing in aliens without presentation for financial gain.

NTSB said it continues to collect and analyze data about the pre-crash actions of both vehicle drivers, motor carrier operations and the configuration of the intersection.

All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB works alongside the California Highway Patrol, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation. In addition to CHP, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Caltrans are parties to the NTSB investigation.

HOLTVILLE – The 28-year-old driver of the 1997 Ford Expedition carrying himself and 24 passengers apparently did stop or nearly stop before turning from Norrish Road onto State Route 115 in front of the oncoming semi that broadsided the SUV.

That was one of the findings of a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the March 2 collision, which killed Jairo de Jesús Landín Dueñas and 12 of his passengers.

NTSB said that in addition to the driver, occupants of the Expedition were a passenger in the right front seat, and 23 passengers in the rear compartment.  The seats had been removed from the SUV's rear compartment, and NTSB said it is unknown how the 23 passengers were positioned in that part of the vehicle.

About 6:14 a.m., the Expedition was traveling west on Norrish Road as it approached the stop sign at SR-115. Meanwhile, a 2011 Peterbilt truck-tractor, in combination with a semitrailer bottom dump and a pull-trailer bottom dump (combination vehicle), was traveling north on SR-115 and approaching the intersection with Norrish Road. The posted speed limit on 115 is 65 miles per hour with a reduction to 55 mph for vehicles when towing, NTSB noted. Traffic on 115 does not have a stop sign at the intersection.

As previously reported, the unloaded combination vehicle belonged to El Centro-based Haven & Sons Trucking Inc., and was driven by Joe Beltran, 68.

Beltran reportedly told investigators the SUV stopped or slowed to a near stop at the stop sign, then accelerated onto SR-115 in front of the semi. Beltran then applied the brakes and skidded until the front of his vehicle collided with the left side of the SUV, according to the report.

NTSB said the vehicles came to rest with the truck-tractor and the SUV off the road in the northwest quadrant of the intersection. The two trailers attached to the combination vehicle blocked the southbound lane and shoulder of SR-115.

“The impact left the front of the truck-tractor significantly intruding into the left side of the SUV,” the report said.

Eleven of the 23 passengers in the rear compartment were ejected during the crash, NTSB said.

“The SUV driver and the front passenger were reportedly wearing their lap/shoulder belts, and both frontal airbags deployed,” the report said.

The roadway and weather conditions were dry, and it was daylight at the time of the crash, NTSB said.

All 25 occupants of the Expedition were undocumented migrants from Mexico and Guatemala. The Expedition was one of two SUVs, the other a GMC Yukon (identified in previous reports as a Suburban) carrying 19 passengers, that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border fence March 2 through a 10-foot breach near the Gordon’s Well exit/Schneider’s Bridge area just off Interstate 8, approximately 30 miles east of the SR-115/I-8 interchange.

Border Patrol agents found the Yukon aflame near the SR-115/I-8 interchange. They also found the vehicle’s 19 occupants hiding in the brush nearby.

On March 30, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a 47-year-old Mexicali man with coordinating the smuggling attempt. Jose Cruz Noguez, who as legal permanent residency status in the United States, was indicted for conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States outside a port of entry causing serious bodily injury/placing a life in jeopardy and bringing in aliens without presentation for financial gain.

NTSB said it continues to collect and analyze data about the pre-crash actions of both vehicle drivers, motor carrier operations and the configuration of the intersection.

All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB works alongside the California Highway Patrol, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation. In addition to CHP, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Caltrans are parties to the NTSB investigation.

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