SONOITA — Ten people "stacked like wood" in the back of a sports-utility vehicle were killed when the driver lost control on a remote southern Arizona highway, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety said Sunday.
Joy Craig said at least 22 men and women were in the vehicle traveling on Arizona 82 about four miles east of Sonoita when the vehicle rolled for an unknown reason shortly before midnight Saturday. Most of the vehicle's passengers were ejected.
Authorities said all the victims are believed to be undocumented aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Equador and perhaps Mexico.
"There was no rear seat in the (Ford) Excursion. They stack live people, as many as they can, like stacking wood," Craig told The Associated Press.
Among the survivors, five people have been airlifted to a Tucson hospital and seven people were transported to hospitals in Tucson and Sierra Vista.
The identity of the driver, passengers and the vehicle's owner are being withheld pending their identification and notification of relatives. Many victims did not have identification, Craig said.
The department says the cause of the rollover is under investigation.
Investigators have not identified the driver, but if he survives, Craig said charges against him would be pending.
"Basically, this is like a 10-time homicide scene," she said.
Craig said the remote area where the accident occurred is a route commonly used by those smuggling undocumented aliens into the United States.
"We see the people stacked like wood frequently," she said. "If they had had the right number of people in there and they all had their seat belts on, they would have lived."
Authorities are looking for anyone else who may be injured, she said.
Craig could not confirm reports of five victims who fled the accident scene and sought help from a Sonoita gas station.
U.S. Border Patrol has eight men who were treated at local hospitals and released in custody, Border Patrol spokesman Omar Candelaria said.