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Calhoun County crash kills one, sends 17 others to hospitals

By Sonny Long
March 23, 2012 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.


One man died Friday, a day after he and 17 other suspected illegal immigrants were hospitalized when an 18-wheeler crashed into their van in Calhoun County.

The crash took place about 10 a.m. Thursday on state Highway 35 near Hog Bayou when a 1998 Dodge Caravan attempted a U-turn on the highway and was T-boned on the passenger side by a Peterbilt truck, said Department of Public Safety Trooper Stephen Gray, who is investigating the wreck.

Both the van and truck were traveling north.

The vehicles came to rest on a bridge over the bayou, and traffic was blocked in all directions for about five hours, said the trooper.

Gray said about a dozen of the passengers ran into the brush after the crash.

"But they began coming out of the brush when they realized how badly some of them were hurt," said the trooper.

The last group of passengers emerged from the brush about 7 p.m., but two men refused to come out of hiding, Gray said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement was contacted and is investigating the immigration status of the crash victims, who were from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, Gray said.

The van is registered to a resident of Bryan, but could turn out to be stolen, the trooper said.

Of the 20 people in the van, 18 were taken to hospitals in Port Lavaca, Victoria, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston, Gray said.

The most serious of the injured was a man taken by helicopter to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria. The man, believed to be 33 years old, died at the hospital about 2 p.m. Friday, Gray said.

"There were a lot of head injuries and broken bones," he said.

The driver of the 18-wheeler, Kenneth Wells, of Rockport, was uninjured.

No citations have been issued and the crash continues to be under investigation.

"We aren't sure who the driver of the van was, but the vehicle has been taken to the crime lab and blood from the steering wheel will be used to help determine who was driving," Gray said.

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