SONOITA, Ariz. (AP) - Ten undocumented immigrants "stacked like
wood" in the back of a sports utility vehicle crammed with at least 22 people were killed when the driver lost control and rolled over on a remote southern Arizona highway, authorities said Sunday.
The Ford Excursion had no rear seat and most of the men and women were ejected when the SUV crashed just before midnight Saturday about 40 miles southeast of Tucson. Authorities said all the victims are believed to be undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Equador and perhaps Mexico.
Arizona Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Joy Craig told The Associated Press that the remote area where the crash happened is a route commonly used by those smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S.
"We see the people stacked like wood frequently," she said. "If they had had the right number of people in there and they all had their seat belts on, they would have lived."
A dozen people injured in the crash were treated at area hospitals and authorities were looking for possibly more.
The identity of the driver, passengers and the vehicle's owner are being withheld pending their identification and notification of relatives. Many victims did not have ID, Craig said.
Investigators have not identified the driver, but if he survives, Craig said he would likely be charged.
"Basically, this is like a 10-time homicide scene," she said.
Craig could not confirm reports of five victims who fled the crash scene and sought help from a Sonoita gas station.
U.S. Border Patrol has eight men who were treated at local hospitals in custody, Border Patrol spokesman Omar Candelaria said.