Skip to Content

Fire Chief recounts rescue attempts following traumatic crash in Holtville

Screen Shot 2021-03-04 at 8.12.27 PM

Chief Alex Silva was the first on scene - He shares his recollections with CBS 13's Alexandra Rangel

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - The horrific smuggling attempt that resulted in 13 people dying following a car crash in Holtville Tuesday, has left a lasting impression on people across the world.

A local firefighter who was first to arrive on scene details the events that happened and how it left an impact on him and his team.

“It’s horrific , it’s tremendous, I can’t even explain how it looked,” said Chief Alex Silva, Holtville Fire Department.

Silva describes the scene as surreal.

Bodies lying across the pavement, some breathing, but others without life.

The California Highway Patrol says the Ford Expedition that crashed with a tractor-trailer in Holtville Tuesday was crammed with 25 people inside.

All 25 suspected of entering the U.S. illegally through a 10-foot hole near the Calexico border.

Silva says it’s a scene that will remain imprinted in his head forever.

“There was a lady that was holding her daughter, she was saying help me, help me. When we had to black-tag her daughter and get help for the mom, it was one of the hardest things we had to do. To separate the mom from the daughter. She knew her daughter had passed," said Silva.

Silva called for backup and requested every resource available including every ambulance and aircraft in the county.

In his 29 years of being a first responder, he had never witnessed something so traumatic.

“My guys had to go and actually black tag somebody, that was hard on them. Most of my guys are young in their mid and early twenties," said Silva.

The national attention the deadly crash received has been mind-blowing, but Silva’s main focus has been his men and their mental health.

“Afterwards we came back and we debriefed, we talked about the incident, yesterday I got them some counseling with the county. I know that’s the worst thing I've seen so I wanted to make sure they were okay," said Silva.

Silva says traumatic incidents like this one tend to cause a ripple effect mentally. He says he will continue to have counseling sessions with his team and asks for continued thoughts and prayers for everyone affected.

He also wanted to make one thing clear.

“There was no border patrol chasing them, there was nobody chasing that vehicle, so I want to stop that rumor," said Silva.

Silva says that in the past 8 years Holtville has had 22 major incidents near the intersection of the crash on Highway 115 and Norrish Road.

Silva hasn't been back to the scene of the crash since it happened, but when he does, he knows it won’t be easy.

“Every time I travel it’s going to remind me. I’ve been doing this for 29 years, there are roads that I traveled and I still remember the incidents that happened right there," said Silva.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Alexandra Rangel

Alexandra Rangel joined KSWT in March 2019 as a multimedia journalist.


KYMA KECY is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content