Officers search wreckage after fatal train-SUV crash
GRANADA – Investigators were trying to determine Friday if a 15-year-old boy had a permit to drive a sport-utility vehicle when it was struck by a train and rolled, killing the other six occupants of the SUV.Christopher Cruz of Donna, Texas, was in critical condition at Denver Health Medical Center, Colorado State Patrol Technician Mike Halpin said. The hospital said Friday it had no information on him.Halpin said investigators believe the teen was driving the Ford Explorer when it crossed into the path of the train Thursday near Granada, a farming village about 180 miles southeast of Denver near the Kansas border.Halpin said the patrol had not determined whether Cruz had a driver’s permit from either Texas or Colorado. Both states issue instructional permits to 15-year-olds, but conditions and restrictions vary.The patrol said Cruz’s mother, Cristela Rios, 36, of Donna was killed, along with two of her other children, Bud Cruz, 13, and Harley Rios, 14.Also killed were Francisco Perez Jr., 36, of Donna; Melissa Resendez, 23, of Combes, Texas; and Ventura Becerra, 26, of Harlingen, Texas.No one aboard the BNSF Railway train was hurt.Authorities said the red Ford Explorer was northbound on a county road when it crossed the tracks in front of the westbound train at about 10:20 a.m. The crossing, where six trains pass by every 24 hours, did not have lights or a gate but was marked with a sign.”It was clear day, a well-marked train crossing and they pulled in front,” Halpin said.He said investigators were still interviewing witnesses and gathering details.”There are some crashes where you don’t get all the answers, and sometimes you don’t get any answers,” he said.Family and acquaintances said the victims were heading to Denver to find other jobs.Resendez had quit a low-paying factory job in Texas and headed to Colorado with her brother, Joey, to find another job, said her uncle, Ben Resendez of Combes.Joey Resendez, 24, was not in the SUV.Ben Resendez said his niece had a hearing disorder but had graduated from high school, kept a positive attitude and wasn’t afraid to go to a strange place in search of a better life.”My nephew had told me they were going to look for factory work,” he said. “I guess she couldn’t find anything in Granada so they were on their way to Denver.”He said their mother, Oralia, had not wanted them to go.”She kept telling (Melissa) she could find a job here,” he said.Other migrants workers in Granada collected about $300 for the families of Melissa Resendez and Becerra, said Ramon Solis, manager of worker housing for Jensen’s Farms outside Granada, where they lived briefly.Solis, speaking through a translator, said few people knew the victims well but had chipped in donations ranging from $5 to $40.
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