Rolla A small pickup truck carrying 19 illegal Mexican immigrants crashed on U.S. 56 in southwest Kansas, killing three and injuring 16 people, the Kansas Highway Patrol said.
The F-150 Ford pickup truck with an extended cab and a camper shell crashed Tuesday morning after the driver lost control on the highway about 1 1/2 miles west of Rolla, Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. David Ploutz said. The driver was not among the dead, Ploutz said.
The pickup was eastbound when its left rear wheel came off, sending the truck into a ditch where it rolled 1 1/2 times before coming to rest on its roof, said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ron Knoefel.
Most occupants were ejected, he said, and no one in the vehicle was wearing seat belts.
Nine people were riding in the truck's cab - four on the front seat, four in the back seat with one on the floor between the seats, Knoefel said. The remaining 10 passengers were in the truck's bed, which was covered with a camper shell.
Thirteen people were transported by ambulance to Morton County Hospital. Five of those were hospitalized in stable condition, and seven were treated and discharged, said Jeff Weaver, chief financial officer for the hospital. One patient was subsequently airlifted to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, where he was listed in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.
Two occupants who died were riding in the truck bed; the other fatality was a passenger sitting on the front seat, Knoefel said.
Names had not been released pending notification of next of kin.
U.S. immigration authorities had been called to notify next of kin, Ploutz said.
Hours after the 6:20 a.m. crash, law enforcement were still trying to determine the origin and destination of the truck, as well as trying to get the full names of all passengers from translators at multiple hospitals.
"You can imagine the problems here," Knoefel said. "There is a language barrier as well."