The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on a mass casualty crash in Imperial County last month. This report includes the first published account of the driver of a tractor-trailer involved in the crash.
The crash happened on the morning of March 2. At approximately 6:14 a.m., a 1997 Ford Expedition SUV carrying with 23 passengers passed a stop sign and was struck by a tractor-trailer. The crash killed 13 people and injured 12 others.
A day after the crash, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said that the SUV was linked to a 10-foot breach at the border, which was a 30-minute drive from the crash site. Two vehicles were seen driving through the border breach, another SUV was found burning just an hour before the crash.
In Holtville, the Ford Expedition was traveling west on Norrish Road. At the same the time, the tractor-trailer was traveling north on State Highway 115.
The NTSB's report revealed that the driver of the tractor-trailer told investigators that the Ford Expedition was stopped or slowed to a near stop at a stop sign at the intersection of SH-115 & Norrish Road. The SUV then accelerated in front of the tractor-trailer.
The driver of the tractor-trailer said he applied the brakes and skidded until the front of his vehicle collided with the left side of the SUV.
The driver of the SUV, a 28-year-old from Mexicali, and 12 passengers were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. 13 other people were taken the hospital.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was among four people transported to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to collect and analyze data about the pre-crash actions of both vehicle drivers, motor carrier operations, and the configuration of the intersection.
All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB works alongside the California Highway Patrol (CHP), which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation. In addition to the CHP, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Caltrans are parties to the NTSB investigation.
A Mexicali man was charged in federal court late last month with organizing the smuggling event that led to a crash.
A criminal complain revealed than an associate of Cruz told authorities there were 60 "Pollos," his term for customers, in the two vehicles and the driver was going to make $28,000.
Jose Cruz Noguez, 47, of Mexicali, Mexico was arrested on March 29 crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico, officials said.
Cruz is a legal permanent resident of the United States who has spent time in San Jose.
Cruz is scheduled to be arraigned on April 27.
Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates on this case.