Seven people in the van escaped injury but were being detained Saturday along with the people in the other van, Kite said. A CHP report of the incident put the figure at six who escaped injury. All were being interviewed. “We’ll try to determine who’s responsible for this smuggling operation (and) who the drivers of the vehicle were,” Kite said. Immigrant smuggling operations, carried out by people nicknamed “coyotes,” have been blamed for accidents that killed or injured dozens of people in recent years. Last year, five people died when a minivan loaded with illegal immigrants and driving the wrong way hit a pickup truck head-on near Jamul, 20 miles east of San Diego. Five other people were hurt in another rollover crash. In 2004, two crashes involving vans carrying illegal immigrants left 21 people injured. In 2003, five people died and 36 people were hurt in three separate crashes, including one in which a stolen pickup loaded with immigrants crashed while trying to avoid a spike strip. Six people died in 2002 in a head-on crash. Authorities said the driver of a van carrying 33 immigrants had the lights out and was going the wrong way on Interstate 8 to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAN DIEGO – Nearly two dozen people remained hospitalized Saturday after a van packed with suspected illegal immigrants crashed during a chase, authorities said. A blue Chevrolet Sportvan carrying 28 people overturned Friday after hitting a spike strip that Border Patrol agents had placed in its path. Twenty-two people were being treated at six hospitals, said Kristin Reinhardt, a spokeswoman for the Scripps hospital chain. A Border Patrol spokesman put the figure at 21. Reinhardt declined to disclose their conditions, citing privacy laws. Authorities earlier said eight people had critical but not life-threatening injuries. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card The chase began about 1:30 p.m. when Border Patrol agents received reports that large numbers of illegal immigrants were being loaded into three vans in the Otay Mesa industrial district of San Diego, Border Patrol spokesman Richard Kite said. The loading site was near a San Diego warehouse where investigators last month discovered the exit to a 2,400-foot-long tunnel used to smuggle drugs, the longest passageway ever found under the U.S.-Mexico border. Border Patrol officers stopped a van and took 35 people into custody. Another 33 people were held after their van hit a Border Patrol vehicle and a car and halted as it tried to make a U-turn. The third van hit a spike strip laid down by Border Patrol agents on state Route 905 and rolled several times as it went down a 30-foot embankment, authorities said. “The van was going close to freeway speeds when the driver struck the spike strip and lost control” after blowing at least one tire, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Gregg said Friday.