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Van Holding 28 Suspected Illegal Immigrants Flips; 1 Is in Coma

May 09, 1998

SAN DIEGO — A van packed with 28 people thought to be undocumented immigrants flipped in a drainage ditch Friday in the Imperial County town of Holtville, leaving one man in a coma and the other occupants with minor injuries, officials said.

U.S. Border Patrol agents trailing the van used CPR to revive three people found submerged in knee-deep water after the van crashed off a dirt road, said Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The van was seen crossing the border in the desert about 8:15 a.m. roughly 15 miles west of Yuma, Ariz., and then heading west on Interstate 8, Strassberger said. Border Patrol agents attempted to puncture the tires using spikes and then followed the van at low speed along a country highway.

They stopped when it went onto the canal road, but then investigated after noticing that it was no longer kicking up a dust trail, Strassberger said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

Officials at El Centro Regional Medical Center said a male occupant was in critical condition in a coma and 15 others were treated and released. Twelve more people were treated at Brawley Pioneers Memorial Hospital for minor injuries and released.

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