Migrant Truck Crash in Mexico: Disaster ‘in the Blink of an Eye’

TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, Mexico — The Guatemalan teenager had been full of greater than 150 fellow migrants for hours, he mentioned, jammed in rows of six, some sitting, some standing, some choking on the southern Mexico warmth.

Then the rushing tractor-trailer began to fishtail uncontrollably, mentioned the teenager, Esvin Chipel Tzoy. Within seconds the automobile flipped and crashed, the deadliest single-day catastrophe in a few years to befall Central American migrants who try the perilous route by means of Mexico to the United States.

Mexico officers mentioned a minimum of 54 folks had been killed and 106 hospitalized in the Thursday crash. They attributed the catastrophe to extreme pace and mentioned the driver, who might have handed undetected by means of immigration checkpoints, escaped after the crash.

Interviews on Friday with survivors, witnesses and one of the first medics who rushed to the crash depicted a scene of mangled steel, vomit, puddles of blood and mud coating the our bodies of migrants piled atop each other in the freeway and what remained of the tractor-trailer.

Mr. Chipel mentioned the tractor-trailer started to lurch backward and forward after which he heard a loud increase, as if the brakes had failed, adopted by the screech of steel as the trailer tipped. Then got here the screams from fellow passengers, together with kids.

Not far behind, Melody Ramírez Moreno, 17, was perched behind her husband on a motorbike once they noticed the tractor-trailer sway precariously. Her husband hit the brakes however the bike’s entrance wheel began to twist, she mentioned, as her foot turned trapped and mangled in the again wheel.

“The only thing I could hear were the screams, the laments, the cries of the people on the truck,” she mentioned. “Everything happened in the blink of an eye.”

The trailer overturned, slammed right into a pedestrian bridge, break up aside and scattered a mass of our bodies throughout the freeway, together with Mr. Chipel himself.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Mr. Chipel mentioned, recalling how his nostrils stuffed with blood and mud. “I thought I was dying.”

Mr. Chipel was amongst the luckier ones, with solely a damaged wrist and a few cuts and scrapes.

The injured migrants, largely from Guatemala like Mr. Chipel, had been being handled at hospitals round Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, on Friday.

Mr. Chipel mentioned he had left his hometown in Guatemala on Sunday and had been making an attempt to get to the United States in hopes of getting work and supporting his getting old dad and mom, who disapproved of his resolution to go away.

“In Guatemala, you can’t get ahead,” he mentioned. “I wanted to go for that American dream.”

A paramedic who was amongst the first to reach at the accident, Luis Eduardo Hernández Trejo, 21, mentioned he may instantly inform many victims had been lifeless, particularly these nonetheless trapped inside the wreckage.

“They were all cadavers,” he mentioned.

Realizing the severity, Mr. Hernández mentioned he referred to as for backup and sought to to determine the wounded who wanted the most pressing assist.

The complete quantity of occupants in the tractor-trailer remained unclear. Some survivors, bleeding and limping, fled the scene to keep away from potential arrest by the immigration police in Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.

The accident revealed in graphic readability the more and more perilous journey that folks from throughout Latin America endure to achieve the United States border, risking ruthless prison cartels, corrupt cops and hostile terrain for the likelihood at a greater life.

After serving to with the triage, Mr. Hernández mentioned he was referred to as over by an immigration official to deal with a migrant who had tried to flee into a close-by home however had begun feeling unwell.

Two different younger migrants had tried to flee the scene towards a close-by river, one of them with a minimize on his head.

“He was scared,” Mr. Hernández mentioned. “He thought we were with the government.”

He additionally recalled seeing a younger mom along with her toddler son sitting by the roadside, blood streaming from a head wound. The child, who survived, was the solely toddler on the truck, in line with Mr. Hernández.

Nearby residents supplied assist, he mentioned, bringing provides like cotton balls and alcohol to assist the paramedics deal with the wounded.

“It was a tragic incident,” Mr. Hernández mentioned. “The people were trying to get to the United States for a better life.”

Heavily armed National Guard troops surrounded the crash web site, the twisted particles from the upturned truck and the our bodies of victims lengthy eliminated. The solely telltale indicators of the earlier day had been crimson streaks of dried blood on the highway and a makeshift memorial of candles and fruit.

“It’s a feeling of deep sadness just to think of how many families were destroyed, torn apart,” mentioned Giovanni Lepri, consultant of the United Nations refugee company in Mexico. At the identical time, he mentioned, “it’s horrifying to think that 54 people or more had to unfortunately die to give this much visibility to something that is happening every day.”

The crash brought about the worst recognized single-day dying toll for migrants in Mexico since the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants by the Zetas drug cartel in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The severity might have political implications, underscoring the determined and harmful measures migrants are taking, at the same time as governments in each Mexico and the United States try to cease the stream northward.

The U.S. authorities has in latest years carried out a collection of insurance policies taking a harsher strategy to deterring migrants. Officials in the Biden administration have repeatedly and explicitly advised them to not come.

“I am saddened to see the tragic loss of life and injuries of migrants traveling in Chiapas,” mentioned U.S. ambassador Ken Salazar on Twitter on Thursday night time. “Human smugglers disregard human life for their own profit. Please don’t risk your lives to migrate irregularly.”

Under former President Donald J. Trump, Washington started instantly returning many detained migrants beneath an obscure well being code generally known as Title 42, whereas additionally forcing asylum seekers to attend in Mexico for his or her instances to be determined in U.S. courts, a program generally known as Remain in Mexico. Both insurance policies have been continued beneath the Biden administration.

The U.S. authorities additionally has more and more relied on Mexico to detain and deport migrants. As of October, the Mexican authorities had detained more than 220,000 undocumented migrants this yr, the highest quantity on document.

The efforts from either side of the border have had some affect: apprehensions at Mexico’s northern border, which reached a record high earlier this yr, have begun tapering off.

However, as governments ramp up deterrence efforts, migrants have sought out increasingly dangerous means to evade the checkpoints arrange by Mexican officers, paying smugglers steep costs to be crammed inside vehicles and trailers and achieve a better chance of avoiding detection.

This yr has already been the deadliest for migrants at the U.S. border since 2014, in line with the International Organization for Migration, which mentioned this week that 650 folks had died making an attempt to cross to this point in 2021 — the highest toll since the I.O.M. started holding data.

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