A fiery highway crash in northern Mexico left at least 26 people dead Sunday, authorities said, after a passenger van and a freight truck collided.
Prosecutors and police in the northern border state of Tamaulipas said the death toll was a preliminary count because of the sheer volume of the wreckage and the fire that consumed the van and the freight trailer. The cab that had been pulling the freight trailer was not found at the scene, suggesting the driver might have uncoupled it and fled.
The accident occurred on a highway near the state capital, Ciudad Victoria, which sits about 214 miles south of McAllen, Texas, and the cause was under investigation, officials said.
Reuters cited the Tamaulipas’ public security ministry as having said two vehicles crashed about half an hour outside the state capital and then caught fire.
Local media reported many of the victims might be members of an extended family returning from an outing, but authorities did not confirm that, according to the Associated Press.
In the past, high death tolls in similar crashes in Mexico have often been blamed on overloaded vehicles linked to migrant smuggling.
A source at the Tamaulipas prosecutors’ office told Reuters that authorities had not confirmed whether the driver of the truck fled the scene or was killed in the wreck.
The source reportedly added that the passengers of the van, believed to be from a private transportation business, included children. The deceased victims are all thought to be Mexicans as national identification cards have been recovered from the scene.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claimed on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that over the previous two days, U.S. Border Patrol had experienced a 50% drop in the number of encounters with illegal immigrants versus what they were experiencing earlier in the week before Title 42 expired at midnight on Thursday.
Border Patrol agents recorded 6,300 encounters on Friday and another 4,200 on Saturday, compared with a daily average of more than 10,000 shortly before Title 42 ended.