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10 people killed in car rollover in Arizona

world Updated: Jun 08, 2009 10:42 IST

AP
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Ten illegal immigrants "stacked like wood" in the back of a sports utility vehicle crammed with at least 27 people were killed when the driver lost control and rolled over on a remote southern Arizona highway, authorities said on Sunday.

The Ford Excursion had no rear seat and most of the men and women were ejected when the SUV crashed just before midnight on Saturday near Sonoita, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Tucson. Authorities said all the victims are believed to be illegal 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. If the driver survives, Craig said he would likely be charged. "Basically, this is like a 10-time homicide scene," she said.

Initially, Craig said there were 22 victims, but several left the crash scene and sought help from businesses in the Sonoita area. U.S. Border Patrol has eight men who were treated at local hospitals in custody, Border Patrol spokesman Omar Candelaria said.