SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — About a month ago, Jose Martinez arrived in the Mexican border city of Mexicali hoping to cross the border into the United States. Until last week, all his efforts had failed.
At about 3 a.m. on March 2, Martinez says he heard smugglers say they had cut a hole in the border barrier and that it was time to go.
He was part of a large group of undocumented migrants who were about to be smuggled into the U.S.
Martinez told Border Report they were split into two groups, each boarding a separate SUV.
But as smugglers tried to drive through the fence, the first vehicle, a Chevy Suburban, got stuck.
“They made all of us have to push it through the hole,” Martinez said.
That vehicle then broke down, according to Martinez.
“Some of the people in that car ran and insisted on getting into ours and we took off,” he said.
By then, the Expedition Martinez was riding in was carrying 25 passengers.
“I asked my friend next to me if he was OK, and he said he felt really cramped. I told him to stick it out,” Martinez said.
The 16-year-old from the state of Guerrero in Mexico says he doesn’t remember much after that.
The Expedition was hit by a semi truck at the intersection of Highway 115 and Norrish Road in Holtville, Calif. Thirteen people died; 12 others in the SUV survived including Martinez.
“I remember waking up on Wednessday night and being told my mother and brother were on their way from Mexico to be with me,” he said.
Mexico’s Consulate in San Diego arranged for an emergency visa for Martinez’s mom and sibling allowing them to be with him in the hospital.
Staff from Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego treated Martinez for internal injuries and spinal fractures. He was released Tuesday and is now staying at a hotel near downtown San Diego.
“I’m very grateful to God for helping me survive this accident,” Martinez said, adding he was very thankful for the care he got at the hospital.
“Most didn’t speak a lot of Spanish, but they were very nice, and I want to thank them.”
The California Highway Patrol, which has been conducting the investigation into the crash, has not released its findings. However, investigators said they suspected the driver of the SUV ran a stop sign and into the path of the big rig.
For now, Martinez will stay in San Diego and undergo physical therapy, but what happens after that remains unclear.
He said he originally wanted to come to the United States to earn money to help pay for his brother’s education and so his mother didn’t have to work anymore.
“I hope I can get my papers and stay,” he said.
Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.