Eight from Houston die in Mexico crash

April 22, 2009 11:24:17 AM PDT
Eight members of a Houston family died in Mexico when their van collided with a freight train while trying to beat the train to a rail crossing, officials said. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The accident happened Friday about an hour south of the border when family members were on their way to visit relatives. Estela Papadopulos, a Houston-area day care center owner, on Tuesday confirmed the death of one of her employees, 27-year-old Magdalena "Maggie" Calderon.

Papadopulos said in Wednesday's Houston Chronicle that the others who died were Calderon's husband, 28-year-old Hugo Calderon, her mother and father, two siblings and her two young sons, ages 7 and 2.

Hugo Calderon was driving and alcohol use was not suspected, said Carlos Tamayo, director of press relations for the Public Safety Department in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.

"It's an unfortunate incident because it was early in the morning, the highway was brightly lit, there was no fog," Tamayo said. "It was human error on the part of the driver of the car, according to all the reports."

Mexican officials said the accident is being investigated by prosecutors in Sabinas Hidalgo, a town near where the accident took place on the highway between the industrial city of Monclova and Nuevo Laredo, where the family crossed into Mexico.

Papadopulos said the accident was an emotional blow to teachers and parents at the Primrose School of Pearland, where Maggie Calderon was recently promoted to management.

"She was a great person," Papadopulos said. "It's a big loss for me, the school, and the children. She was in every classroom." Mexican authorities provided a partial list of the dead:

Fernando Olivo Elias, Juanita Sanchez de Olivo, Luis Eugenio Sanchez Medina, Magdelena Olivo Sanchez and Hugo Calderon. Todd Huizinga, spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, said the family had not given permission to release details of the accident or funeral arrangements.

"I can confirm that four of the victims who died were American citizens, but we're not releasing any information on them out of consideration for their privacy," Huizinga said. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families and their loved ones."

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