Following a high-speed Thursday afternoon, a pickup truck suspected of carrying illegal immigrants rolled over, killing three people and injuring 8 more. The accident happened near the town of Boulevard, California which is about 60 miles east of San Diego and just a few miles north of the Mexican border. CBS8 reports the incident began when Border Patrol agents attempted to stop a Chevy Silverado and the driver decided to flee:
The driver of the Chevrolet did not yield to the Border Patrol’s marked vehicle – leading agents onto I-8 westbound at a high rate of speed.
After Border Patrol deployed a spike strip the driver of the Chevrolet lost control, became airborne and rolled down a dirt embankment – landing on the main lanes of westbound I-8.
There were 11 adults in the Chevrolet, including the driver, at the time of crash.
Authorities believe there were two occupants in the cab of the Chevrolet and the rest of the passengers were lying in the bed of the pick-up.
The driver, who has been identified as a U.S. citizen, was the only person wearing a seatbelt. The female passenger riding in the cab of the truck was killed in the crash. In addition, two of the men in the bed of the truck were killed and three more were seriously injured. The other five people involved had minor injuries. The immigration status of the passengers, along with their names and identities, has not been released yet but it’s clear the driver was fleeing authorities. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the truck reached speeds up to 100 miles per hour:
According to a CHP incident log, witnesses reported the pickup was weaving in and out of traffic and passing other motorists using the center median and right shoulder at speeds of more than 100 mph.
There is supposed to be an update on this story from authorities sometime today. For the moment, it certainly looks like this was an attempt at human smuggling gone very badly wrong. Another aspect of this which could be interesting is where the (apparent) illegal immigrants in the truck came from. With thousands of people trapped in Tijuana waiting to claim asylum, some members of the migrant caravan have reportedly been moving east to find portions of the border where they can cross over. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these individuals were part of that group. I’ll update this story if more information becomes available. For now, here’s an ABC News report on the crash:
Update: The San Diego Union-Tribune has an update on this story. Authorities say it was a “drive-through smuggling event” bringing people illegally across the border.
On Friday, the Border Patrol said that at about 4:10 p.m. Thursday, its agents spotted tire tracks from multiple vehicles near the U.S.-Mexico border. The tracks crossed into the United States and headed north.
That, the agency said, is indicative of what its calls “a drive-through smuggling event” — smugglers driving people across the border.
Along with the tracks, agents found a piece of a vehicle. Officials did not specify what type of car part it may have been.
Ten minutes later, agents spotted the Silverado — and it was missing the same part that had been found near the suspicious tire tracks.
The high-speed chase went on for more than 15 miles before a spike strip was used. Authorities said the crash happened about a minute later. The passengers have not been identified yet but the driver has [emphasis added]:
The driver of the pickup was identified Friday as Luis Alberto Virgen, 21, a U.S. citizen who has been living in Tijuana, California Highway Patrol officer Travis Garrow said. The passengers are not believed to be U.S. citizens, he said.
So this guy has been living in Tijuana where the migrant caravan has been camped out for the past week. And yesterday he apparently drove across the border with 10 passengers in the back of his truck. I’m starting to think it’s more likely than not that some of these passengers were part of the migrant caravan. I wonder if authorities will decide to release that information.