BIG WELLS, Texas (Reuters) – Five immigrants died and several others were injured on Sunday when their vehicle careened out of control while being chased by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas about 90 miles (145 km) north of the Mexican border, officials said.
Some of the injured were ejected from a Chevy Suburban packed with 14 people that was traveling up to 100 miles per hour (160 kph), Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd told reporters.
The sport utility vehicle skidded off the road and then attempted to get back onto the highway, but the driver overcorrected and the vehicle flipped over, ejecting several people, Boyd said.
“We’ve seen this many, many times, in not only this county but other counties along the border,” Boyd said. “This is a perfect example of why our borders need to be secure.”
The chase began after a Border Patrol agent noticed three vehicles traveling in a caravan and suspected smuggling, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. Border Patrol agents stopped two of the vehicles and made multiple arrests, but the third vehicle continued, the statement said.
“The driver did not stop and the attempt to stop the vehicle was taken over by a Dimmit County Sheriff’s office deputy. The vehicle rolled over a short distance later on highway 85 near Big Wells, resulting in multiple injuries and fatalities,” the statement said.
Four victims were pronounced dead on the scene and a fifth was pronounced dead after being airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio, Boyd said. A sixth person was in very critical condition with potentially life-threatening injuries, he said.
Television images showed the smashed vehicle missing at least two wheels, with debris strewn across the road at the Big Wells city limit.
The driver, who was not hurt, was arrested, Boyd said. It was not immediately clear what charges he will face.
Reporting by Jim Forsyth in Big Wells, Texas; Writing by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman