SAN DIEGO, California – The National Transportation Safety Board is ready to begin its investigation into the crash that killed 13 people and another dozen were injured in Imperial County, California, as special agents from the Department of Homeland Security investigate if it was a possible human trafficking attempt.

Around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, a gravel truck collided with a Ford Expedition carrying 25 people near El Centro, about 10 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico, according to the California Highway Patrol. The area is about 100 miles east of downtown San Diego.

Twenty-five people ranging in age from 15 to 53 were riding in the SUV on Route 115, California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said. The vehicle had a seat for the driver and passenger, but not a rear seat.

“Obviously, that vehicle wasn’t set up for that many people,” Watson said.

At least six people remain hospitalized, two were taken to UCSD hospital in Hillcrest and two were taken to Scripps by air ambulances.

The identities of the victims have not been released. However, the Undersecretariat of Foreign Relations of Mexico confirmed that 10 of the 13 deceased persons were of Mexican nationality. Two people who were hospitalized near the scene and later transferred to San Diego-area hospitals were Guatemalan nationals, authorities said.

Twelve people, including the driver of the truck, died at the scene, while one person died while en route to a hospital.

Thirteen people were transported to El Centro Regional Medical Center, Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California, and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Crossing attempts have increased in the first weeks of 2021

Later, four people were transferred to UC San Diego Medical Center and two others were transferred to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego County.

Authorities said injuries to surviving patients ranged from fractures to life-threatening head injuries. Until this Wednesday, the status of each patient had not been revealed.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

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