Van Carrying Farmworks Plunges Into California Canal

Divers searched for the bodies of at least eight people who plunged into a fast-moving canal Tuesday after a crash involving a vehicle transporting farmworkers in rural central California, authorities said.

Authorities could not immediately confirm any deaths, but California Highway Patrol Officer John Martinez said dive teams were focused on recovery of bodies, rather than rescue efforts.

Divers were trying to locate the people and two submerged vehicles, which fell into the Delta-Mendota Canal about 70 miles south of Sacramento, according to the patrol.

"Their objective now is to recover the bodies," Martinez said. "We can't even see what type of damage the vehicles sustained yet to get a good sense of what happened."

Family members of victims lined the canal's edge, watching as divers probed the depths for the sunken vehicles.

Witnesses reported that a sport utility vehicle was carrying at least six laborers from an orchard south of Westley, and that at least two people were traveling in a pickup truck that hit it, he said.

The accident occurred shortly after noon Tuesday. Both vehicles careened into the swift currents of the canal, which runs about 17 feet deep where the crash occurred, said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Pete Lucero.

The 117-mile canal funnels water from a pumping plant in Tracy along the western San Joaquin Valley.