Nine killed in crash fleeing Border Patrol - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Nine killed in crash fleeing Border Patrol

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, August 7, 2006 1:16 pm | Updated: 3:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

YUMA - A vehicle filled with suspected illegal immigrants rolled over early Monday, resulting in nine deaths, authorities said. The single-vehicle accident occurred on a dirt road about a mile west of U.S. 95 when the driver of a large SUV carrying up to 22 people attempted to make a U-turn with Border Patrol agents in pursuit and the vehicle rolled over when he lost control, a Border Patrol spokesman said.

Earlier, Yuma County Sheriff's Maj. Leon Wilmot said the driver had swerved to keep from running over a spike strip deployed by Border Patrol agents. Wilmot said four people were pronounced dead at the accident scene.

Sixteen people were transferred to Yuma Regional Medical Center, said Machele Headington, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Out of those, five died at the hospital, three were treated and released to the custody of Border Patrol and five were transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.

Three more of the 16 likely would be admitted to the Yuma Center, Headington said, adding that their conditions were unclear.

Most of those transferred to the Phoenix hospital had head trauma, she said. Good Samaritan spokesman Meghann Finn said the five patients at her hospital were in critical condition.

Lloyd Frers, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's El Centro, Calif., sector, whose agents were involved in the incident, said the SUV's driver had tried to circumvent a checkpoint on the highway when agents saw the vehicle and tried to intercept it. He said he did not know how fast either vehicle was traveling.

"The agents were attempting to investigate the vehicle, which means catch up to it," Frers said.

"Obviously, whatever (speed) he was going, it was unsafe for the load.

"The Suburban was grossly overloaded, and it's difficult to handle on that kind of (dirt) road," Frers said.

Immigrant-smugglers frequently pack a large number of people into older vans or SUVs that often have mechanical problems, resulting in often-fatal accidents.

"They just pile in; they're like sardines," Frers said. "It's unfortunate."

He added that to rational people, "putting 22 people in a suburban is ridiculous." But for immigrant-smugglers, "this is a job for them, a business, and they try to get as much of their commodity in the van as they can. It's all about risk to gain."

Immigrant-smugglers frequently pack a large number of people into older vans or SUVs that often have mechanical problems, resulting in often-fatal accidents.

"They just pile in; they're like sardines," Frers said. "It's unfortunate."

Mike Shelton, a Rural/Metro Fire Department spokesman, said authorities confirmed that those in the vehicle were undocumented immigrants, but Frers said Border Patrol investigators had not made a determination.

The road runs through the Army's Yuma Proving Ground, and agents from the Border Patrol's El Centro, Calif., sector, who have been helping man highway checkpoints in the area, were involved in the incident, said spokeswoman Veronica Lozano.

Scores of illegal immigrants die each year while crossing the Mexican border into Arizona, many in car accidents. Many of the crashes occur either when smugglers overload vehicles, which makes them difficult to control, or when smugglers try to flee authorities at high speeds.

Yuma, in far southwestern Arizona, has become the nation's busiest immigrant-smuggling hotspot. This spring, Border Patrol agents had been seeing spikes in arrests of illegal immigrants and cases every day of criminals preying on border crossers.

The patrol's Yuma sector saw a drop in arrests in June, however.

  • Discuss

Facebook

EastValleyTribune.com on Facebook

Twitter

EastValleyTribune.com on Twitter

Google+

EastValleyTribune.com on Google+

RSS

Subscribe to EastValleyTribune.com via RSS

RSS Feeds

Spacer4px
Your Az Jobs