By NBC News staff and wire reports
At least 13 people died Sunday and another 10 were injured after a pickup truck loaded with passengers veered off the highway and crashed into trees in rural South Texas, authorities said.
State troopers and Goliad County sheriff’s investigators were investigating the crash. A trooper told KRIS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Corpus Christi, Tex., that it appeared a tire on the truck blew out before the vehicle went off the road and struck two trees.
Authorities said they did not immediately know the names and ages of the victims.
A spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Public Safety told NBC News early Monday that the number of those killed in the crash had risen to 13 after two more victims succumbed to their injuries in local hospitals.
Vehicle laden with passengers
Gerald Bryant, also of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told The Associated Press the dead and wounded were various ages and that he personally saw two young children among the dead at the scene.
“This is the most people I’ve seen in any passenger vehicle, and I’ve been an officer for 38 years,” Bryant said, referring to the chaotic scene.
The white 2000 Ford F-250 pickup was heading north on U.S. 59 around 7 p.m. (9 p.m. ET) Sunday when it traveled off the right side of the highway near the community of Berclair in Goliad County, Bryant said.
The 23 people were loaded inside both the truck’s cab and bed.
Six of those who died were still inside the truck when emergency crews arrived to find the mangled vehicle, Bryant said. A man who claimed to have been the driver of the vehicle was ejected but survived, Bryant told the San Antonio Express-News.
He said several of the surviving victims had life-threatening injuries. He did not have their official conditions but described them as “very serious.” The injured were taken to various hospitals in San Antonio, Victoria and Corpus Christi. Berclair is about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Border Patrol will assist with the investigation, authorities said.
“It’s unknown whether or not (the victims) were illegal, but it’s possible,” Bryant told the AP. The truck was registered to an owner in Houston, he told the Express-News.
Crash investigators stayed at the scene into the late hours Sunday to assess the crash, which halted traffic on U.S. 59. “It’s been very chaotic here, and it’s very traumatic,” Bryant told the Express-News earlier from the scene. “It’s only first responders out here, and it’s very solemn.”
A Goliad County sheriff’s dispatcher deferred comment to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which did not immediately return a call by NBC News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.