GOLIAD, Texas (AP) — A pickup truck overloaded with passengers veered off a highway and crashed into trees in rural South Texas, killing at least 13 people and leaving 10 injured, authorities said.
Border Patrol was assisting in the investigation into the Sunday evening crash in Goliad County, about 150 miles northeast of the border with Mexico. It was not immediately clear if those involved were illegal immigrants.
Gerald Bryant, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at least 23 passengers were crammed inside the truck's cab and bed, including at least two young children whom he saw among the dead.
"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 in Goliad County. He said it was one of the state's most serious accidents in his time.
The driver was among the 11 found dead at the scene, Bryant said, adding that investigators were trying to confirm his name.
The white 2000 Ford F-250 pickup was heading north on U.S. 59 when it drove off the right side of the highway near the unincorporated community of Berclair and struck two large trees, Bryant said. Berclair is about 90 miles southeast of San Antonio.
The truck was registered in Houston to someone other than the driver, Bryant said.
A DPS accident reconstruction team was investigating the accident, but Bryant said it could be another week or two before it is concluded. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents were working to confirm the identities of the victims and investigate the possible human smuggling.
"It's unknown whether or not (the victims) were illegal, but it's possible," Bryant told the AP.
Adrian Fulton, a funeral director at Victoria Mortuary Services where 11 of the bodies were taken, said representatives from the Mexican Consulate were on the scene Sunday night.
Authorities initially said 11 people had died. Early Monday, Department of Public Safety dispatcher Cynthia Duffield in San Antonio said another two had died at hospitals overnight.
Such overloaded vehicles are not uncommon as smugglers of illegal immigrants try to maximize profits moving their loads north from the Texas-Mexico border. In April nine Mexican immigrants died near the border when the teenage driver of their van crashed after fleeing Border Patrol. There were 18 people in that minivan.
Six of those who died in the crash Sunday evening were still inside the mangled vehicle when emergency crews arrived at the scene, Bryant said.
"It's been very chaotic here, and it's very traumatic," Bryant told the San Antonio-Express News.
He told The Associated Press that several of the surviving victims had life-threatening injuries. He did not have their official conditions but described them as "very serious." The injured were taken to hospitals in San Antonio, Victoria and Corpus Christi.
A Goliad County sheriff's spokesman did not immediately return a message left by the AP.