EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A Border Patrol spokesperson says three of the ten occupants in a car that crashed early Thursday morning killing seven and injuring three were undocumented immigrants.
Border Patrol says all information gathered so far indicates the crash was a human smuggling event.
The crash happened around 2:15 a.m. near the intersection of Paisano Drive and Coldwell Street in Downtown El Paso Thursday morning when the 18-year-old driver failed to negotiate a curve while traveling at a high rate of speed, crashing his 2018 Chevy Cruze into a parked semi-trailer.
According to Border Patrol, the incident began around 1:30 a.m. when a sensor detected activity near Sunland Park, New Mexico known for smuggling activity and illegal crossing. Agents reportedly noticed the car with multiple people inside and relayed the license info to agents in the area.
Agents spotted the vehicle in El Paso and initiated their lights and sirens to conduct an emergency stop. They say the driver of the Cruze was speeding along Paisano, ignoring traffic signals and the Border Patrol vehicle in pursuit.
According to an official statement released by Border Patrol, a supervisor ordered agents to terminate the pursuit. They claim the agents turned off their lights and sirens and lost sight of the Cruze.
El Paso Police say the driver of the Cruze lost control around the sharp curve and slammed under a trailer, killing seven inside and injuring three others. Border Patrol Agents were first on the scene and emergency transmissions indicate they were the ones who initiated an emergency assistance call.
As of Saturday, all three survivors of the crash are known undocumented immigrants. They include a 16-year-old boy from Juárez, 18-year-old Omar Garcia Hernandez of Juárez, and 25 –year old Wilmur Gomez of Guatemala.
Due to the nature of the crash, El Paso Police are awaiting official confirmation on several victims. As of Saturday, police confirmed the driver as an 18-year-old man from El Paso. Other passengers include a man and two women from El Paso, a woman and man whose nationality could not be confirmed and a man who was a Mexican national.
“I cannot stress enough how Transnational Criminal Organizations continue to exploit human beings and manipulate the youth in our communities by recruiting them to be their mules and their smugglers. Human smuggling is as lucrative as drug smuggling if not more, and our youth are being targeted. Human smuggling is not a victimless crime. This is a tragic loss of life for our El Paso Community,” said U.S. Border Patrol, El Paso Sector, Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez in a written statement.
El Paso Police are leading the investigation while CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility is leading a parallel investigation. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General is also involved in the investigation.
El Paso Police and Border Patrol say they will release additional information about the crash and victims as the investigation progresses.
This is the second deadly crash involving suspected human smuggling by Border Patrol agents. In January, an Ecuadorian woman was killed when the vehicle of her suspected smuggler also lost control in the same spot on Paisano.
As KTSM previously reported, a 58-year-old motorcyclist was also killed in the same location on February 8.