At least 15 people died after an SUV with dozens of passengers collided with a semitruck carrying gravel near the U.S.-Mexico border in California on Tuesday morning, according to officials with El Centro Regional Medical Center.
“We believe there was 27 passengers in this SUV that struck a semi truck full of gravel,” emergency room managing director Judy Cruz said in a Facebook Live video.
At least 14 people died at the scene of the “major accident,” Cruz said. Three people were flown to a hospital, she said. Seven patients were taken to El Centro, where one person died. Two patients were taken to Pioneers Hospital, she said.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jack Sanchez told USA TODAY the crash involved a big rig and a Ford Expedition along an intersection on Route 115 near Holtville, California. The big rig driver suffered “multiple injuries,” Sanchez said.
Holtville is about 50 miles west of Arizona and 10 miles north of the border.
Sanchez confirmed at least 12 fatalities.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
“The patients are of course going through a little bit of a difficult time as you can imagine,” said Dr. Adolphe Edward, chief executive officer at the hospital. “This is a major accident. We are taking care of them in the emergency room department.”
Cruz said the hospital had called for air support from other agencies to transport three of the patients to other facilities.
The Imperial County emergency services office responded to the “mass fatality incident”at 6:16 a.m. PT, deputy fire chief Sal Flores told the L.A. Times. Imperial County Fire department told USA TODAY multiple agencies were responding to the scene.
California Highway Patrol spokesperson Mary Bailey told USA TODAY there had been an “incident” and that personnel were at the scene.
Customs and Border Protection was on the scene to “help” the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office and was not involved in the incident, spokesperson Macario Mora told USA TODAY.
The county sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This story is developing.