updated 11/28/2008 3:35:42 PM ET 2008-11-28T20:35:42

A sport utility vehicle carrying eight people from Texas plunged off an unfinished bridge into a river in northern Mexico, causing the death of three adults and four children, officials said Friday.

The group was driving from Dallas to visit family in Mexico when the driver, following a dirt road, tried to cross the bridge before dawn Thursday.

The driver realized too late that the bridge didn't span the Conchos River, and the vehicle fell upside down into the water, said Eduardo Esparza, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the state of Chihuahua, where the incident occurred.

Relatives in a second car driven by Ubaldo Ortiz were able to stop in time.

"It was like 2 in the morning, and we were just arriving at El Mezquite," Ortiz told police. "But we fell behind and, when we caught up, we saw the Suburban with its tires in the air."

Ortiz said he and others were only able to save one of the toppled vehicle's eight passengers. The rest drowned because they couldn't be freed from their seat belts in time.

The dead are Carlos Rey Madrid, 39; his wife Olga, 27; his mother, Margarita Madrid Gonzalez, 52; Rey's children, Danny Rey, 7, and Gael Rey, 2; Ortiz's daughter, Kaylinn Ortiz, 7; and David Lopez Hernandez, 5. It was unclear if the victims would be buried in Mexico or Texas.

Esparza said there were no signs or barriers keeping traffic off the bridge, on a dirt road near the border town of Ojinaga.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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