Passengers improve after crash

Friday, February 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:25 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Five of the 17 Mexican migrant workers involved in Tuesday’s fatal accident on eastbound I-70 were in fair condition on Thursday, according to a University Hospital spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said the five are expected to be released by the end of the week.

Ten other passengers who were injured in the crash were released on Wednesday and Thursday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained four of the men. Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the agency, said the four would appear before a judge and could be deported.

Miguel Velazquez, 37, died in the accident. His 15-year-old son was released from the hospital on Wednesday. An uncle drove from Florida to be with the boy as arrangements are made to send the body of the elder Velazquez back to Mexico, Centro Latino volunteer Lisa Brininstool said. Centro Latino sent three volunteers to the hospital to translate and provide support for the accident victims. The organization also helped supply clothing, food and shelter, and helped make arrangements to send Velazquez’s body to Mexico.

Columbia residents offered to shelter the accident victims, Brininstool said. A man who helps out at Los Tres Hermanos, a grocery store at Parkade Center, offered to house five of them, she said.

Adrian Gonzalez Aguilar, 20, stayed at St. Francis House, a shelter on Range Line Street, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. His cousin, Ulises Aguilar Urea, 19, was one of two men released Thursday afternoon.

Gonzalez said he and his cousin would discuss whether to continue to Florida to look for work. Lana Jacobs of St. Francis House said the two men left the house on Thursday.

Gonzalez said the 17 men were from the state of Chiapas, near Guatemala. The group left Mexico, crossed the border on foot, piled into a 1994 Chevrolet truck and planned to drive to Florida to look for work. They reached Colorado before realizing they were going the wrong way.

The truck was 40 miles east of Columbia at Route D when the left rear tire exploded and the truck crashed into a guardrail.

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