Five illegal immigrants died in a car crash while trying to flee from Border Patrol agents and Texas Department of Public Safety authorities during a suspected smuggling attempt in South Texas Sunday afternoon, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“There were 14 people in the vehicle, including the driver and a passenger, whom we suspect of being U.S. citizens. The others were being smuggled,” Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd said, the San Antonio Express reported.
Most of the 14 occupants crammed inside the Chevy Suburban were ejected from the vehicle when the driver lost control during the pursuit. The SUV rolled multiple times on Texas Highway 85 in Big Wells, officials said.
“From what we can tell the vehicle ran off the road and caught gravel and then tried to recorrect,” Boyd said.
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene, and another died later at a hospital. A sixth person is believed to be in critical condition.
"It's a problem. It's a perfect example of why our borders need to be secure," Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd told KSAT-TV. "It endangers American lives as well as those people from Mexico or other countries coming here ... for whatever reason they're coming."
At approximately 11 a.m., a CBP agent spotted three vehicles suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants.
The agent stopped one of the vehicles and alerted officials about the others. Another agent stopped the second vehicle.
"Multiple arrests were made from each vehicle," CBP said in a statement.
An agent attempted to stop the third vehicle, but the driver would not pull over, which led to the chase that was taken over by a Dimmit County Sheriff's deputy and eventually ended in a deadly crash shortly after noon.
Authorities are still trying to determine the passengers' nationalities
What about the driver of the SUV?
Police rescued the driver through the window of the SUV and took him into custody.
“He’s in the hospital. He’s talking,” Boyd said. “He was aware and coherent when he got out. His reaction that I saw, to seeing the bodies on the road, was like ‘I’m in big trouble.'"
Authorities said the driver had past dealings with Homeland Security for scouting and smuggling.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those who died in the crash,” CBP's statement said.