Two SUVs involved in different car accidents Tuesday in California — including one fatal accident that left 13 dead — had crossed the United States border from Mexico through a 10-foot hole in border fencing, according to federal investigators.
Every person in both SUVs was believed to have crossed the border illegally, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The first SUV was discovered at 5:56 a.m. local time engulfed in flames near Interstate 8 and State Route 115. It was discovered roughly 10 minutes after entering the United States, and 19 people were found hiding nearby. The cause of the blaze remains unclear.
The second vehicle discovered at 7:05 a.m. had 25 illegal immigrants inside and crashed at State Highway 115 and Norrish Road in Holtville, killing 13 occupants, including 10 Mexican citizens.
An image of the fatal crash shared on Twitter showed the SUV’s windshield smashed with half of the vehicle caved in.
“Several dead after a truck and SUV crash in [Imperial County],” reporter Christian Galeno tweeted.
Customs and Border Protection told Fox News that a hole was cut in a border barrier near Calexico, Calif., with both vehicles managing to avoid a camera system set up near the gap.
The hole in the border barrier was discovered by Border Patrol agents at 6:05 a.m. on Tuesday, just 10 minutes after the vehicle was discovered on fire, and an hour before the fatal crash. Immediately after the discovery, agents reviewed surveillance footage showing two vehicles in the area of the fence breach.
The Border Patrol’s El Centro sector chief Gregory Bovino said the accidents demonstrate the careless way human smugglers treat their victims.
“Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life,” Bovino said in a press release. “Those who may be contemplating crossing the border illegally should pause to think of the dangers that all too often end in tragedy — tragedies our Border Patrol agents and first responders are unfortunately very familiar with.”
“We pray for the accident victims and their families during this difficult time,” Bovino said. “Initial investigation into the origins of the vehicles indicate a potential nexus to the aforementioned breach in the border wall.”
The agency’s press release also announced an investigation into the human smuggling events.