'Don't close your eyes:' Pain, despair after Mexico crash

Tuxtla Gutiérrez (Mexico) (AFP) – "Don't fall asleep, don't close your eyes," pleads a survivor to his badly injured companion.


Minutes earlier, an overcrowded truck carrying the fearful migrants overturned on a highway in southern Mexico, killing at least 53 people and injuring dozens more.

Nearby resident Sabina Lopez ran to the scene after hearing the crash of the truck, which was smuggling about 100 undocumented migrants, mostly Central Americans.

"Remember what you promised your mother! Hold on," Lopez heard the man imploring his badly wounded friend.

She saw dozens screaming in pain, many trapped in the shattered bed of the vehicle, others unconscious and some unharmed but hugging each other in terrified disbelief.

"It was horrible to hear the wailing. I just thought about helping," Lopez, 18, told AFP.

Shortly after the crash, the public prosecutor's office confirmed the scale of the horror: 53 dead in the collision and many more injured.

The report did not specify the nationality of the victims, but regional authorities said that most were Guatemalans.

Bodies on the highway

Lopez told AFP that the truck crashed into a wall and overturned so violently that the container broke in half and the roof came off.

"The immigration officials arrived and told us to help pick up the backpacks because they contained identification documents. So we put them to one side, piled them up and they took them away," she said.

The officials took on the role of rescuers, carrying the victims out of the wreckage as best they could.

A witness told AFP that the truck crashed into a wall and overturned so violently that the roof came off
A witness told AFP that the truck crashed into a wall and overturned so violently that the roof came off GABRIELA COUTINO AFP

They laid the dead in a row on the asphalt and then covered them with white sheets.

"There were a lot of people lying there, some of them were already dead. We helped the paramedics as much as we could with those who still had vital signs," says Isaias Diaz, who arrived 15 minutes after the crash.

Some at the scene phoned emergency services in desperation. Others were engaged in the inevitable: sorting the dead.

"I saw five, six children who were clearly injured. People with broken legs, ribs, (injured) heads, cuts on their necks, everything," said Diaz, shocked.

- 'Crying, pain, despair' -

Other residents of El Refugio -- a neighbourhood near the highway -- say that the driver and another person with him appeared injured, but then fled.

Human traffickers routinely transport migrants by truck into Mexico, with the aim of reaching the country's northern border with the United States.

"It was awful, really... The crying, the pain, the despair. It was a terrible scene," adds Diaz.

Some consoled survivors, offering them water and mobile phones to get in touch with relatives.