Barstow, CA Truck Crash Kills 12, Mar 1994



Barstow, Calif. - They came from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador, and they crashed in California.
Twenty people who came to America - all in the same truck.
They drove for 13 hours to find an income.
Then they wrecked.
When the bodies were found, they had no names. No cash. No witnesses.
Twelve lay dead and eight injured in the gray dawn of the desert highway.
The passengers - 13 men and seven women - met Tuesday in Nogales, Ariz., where they paid for a ride north.
They ended up southbound Wednesday on Interstate 15. Just south of Barstow at 5:50 a.m., the Toyota pickup truck left the freeway and hit an embankment.
Edwin Alejandro Henriquez, a 24 year old from El Salvador, was the only man to walk away.
He simply said: "What can I say? God is real."
California Highway Patrol Capt. Kent Knight said: "This is the most deadly single-vehicle passenger accident in California history since records have been kept."
The truck was loaded 1,700 pounds heavier than safety standards allowed.
The tires were overinflated. It was equipped with air shocks that allow a vehicle to carry a heavy load.
Those details were enough to spur an investigation into human smuggling.
The driver, who has not been positively identified, will be arrested on suspicion of 12 counts of manslaughter when he is released from Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition Wednesday night, authorities said.
One more count of manslaughter may be added. Coroner's officials are determining if one of the women was pregnant.
The truck left Nogales Tuesday and drove all night. There were no skid marks where the truck left the road.
"We presume that the driver fell asleep," said CHP Lt. Don Pitt.
Seven men and five women died.
The passengers ranged in age from 11 to 36. Most were in their 20s.

The Times Shreveport Louisiana 1994-03-10