Crash victims in deadly Tucson-area wreck likely were illegal immigrants

Five people packed into SUV were killed; 15 injured in rollover
2013-04-23T00:00:00Z 2013-04-23T08:30:51Z Crash victims in deadly Tucson-area wreck likely were illegal immigrantsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Arizona authorities describe a chaotic scene at a weekend crash involving an SUV packed with 20 immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala as it fled the Border Patrol and flipped over, killing five people and injuring 15.

The vehicle was damaged so severely that authorities had difficulty determining its make and model; two injured immigrants ran off but were apprehended.

The crash appears to be the latest in a series of deadly wrecks involving immigrants being smuggled into Arizona from Mexico in recent years. It highlights the dangers faced by people trying to enter the country illegally.

The vehicle wrecked Saturday night while exiting Interstate 10 about 20 miles east of Tucson, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Monday.

Border Patrol agents were about a quarter-mile behind it when the crash occurred on the ramp to Arizona 83, the department said.

Agents were following it, Graves said.

"The driver obviously got nervous and decided to try to elude them."

DPS investigators said they believed the passengers had entered the U.S. illegally, he said.

Investigators reported the vehicle was a Chevrolet Tahoe, Graves said, but were uncertain because the vehicle was so damaged after it rolled and landed on its roof.

Of the 15 injured people, 13 were found at the scene, while two others ran off and were taken into custody by Border Patrol agents several miles away, Graves said.

Those hurt in the wreck were taken to Tucson hospitals for treatment of injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening, Graves said.

The vehicle's driver was among them.

Graves said it could be a week or more before investigators formally declare the accident's cause, but it appeared the driver lost control while driving too fast.

A spokeswoman for the Mexican consulates for Arizona did not immediately return a call for comment.

Guatemalan Vice Consul Jessica Mendoza declined to immediately discuss the crash, saying consular officials were awaiting confirmed information.

The Border Patrol said in a brief statement released late Sunday that agents tried unsuccessfully to stop the vehicle as it traveled west on I-10.

Border Patrol spokesman Brent Cagen declined to elaborate on the circumstances of the crash, or to comment on whether the vehicle's passengers were in the country illegally.

Arizona has seen several fatal accidents involving vehicles carrying people who had entered the United States illegally.

• A May 2012 crash in Casa Grande of a vehicle carrying 11 immigrants killed four people.

• In June 2009, 11 of at least 27 immigrants "stacked like wood" were killed in an SUV rollover near Sonoita.

• An August 2008 rollover near Florence killed 10 of 19 immigrants in an SUV.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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