Five people, including four Mexicans, die in Border Patrol chase |

Five people, including four Mexicans, die in Border Patrol chase

Associated Press

SALTON CITY, Calif. (AP) — Five people died in a Border Patrol chase that ended when the Jeep they were traveling in slammed into a truck carrying 22Y tons of steel rods in an open desert area, the California Highway Patrol said Monday. Three others were seriously injured.

A Border Patrol agent, driving a marked vehicle, made a U-turn and “attempted to overtake” the 1990 Jeep Cherokee without turning on emergency lights Friday at around 11 p.m., the CHP said. A short time later, the Jeep drove past a stop sign and was broadsided by the truck, which dragged the Jeep about 400 feet before coming to a stop.

The CHP said it was unclear whether the Border Patrol agent was responsible for the collision at state Highway 86 and the Borrego Salton Seaway in northwestern Imperial County, or if the Jeep’s driver was even aware of the pursuit.

The Border Patrol vehicle chased the Jeep “acting on a reasonable suspicion of alien smuggling, based on location, time and type of vehicle,” the CHP said in an accident report. The statement didn’t elaborate.

A Border Patrol spokeswoman, Alicia Ramirez, said the agent had just turned around when he witnessed the crash from a distance.

“He did everything we’re supposed to do,” Ramirez said. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”

The Border Patrol spokeswoman described the area as “very notorious for alien smuggling.”

Three men and two women who were in the Jeep died immediately, the CHP said. Three others — a 39-year woman, a 19-year old man and an 11-year-old boy — were ejected from the Jeep and taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs with major injuries.

It appears several passengers in the Jeep were related, said Miguel Eduardo Rea, alternate consul at the Mexican consulate in Calexico. The consulate identified four of the five deceased on Monday — a woman from Mexico state and three people from Michoacan state. Their ages were unknown but all appeared to be adults.

The names of the victims were not released, pending notification of relatives.

The CHP said the Jeep’s driver, whose name and place of residence were unknown, was killed. The driver of the truck — 48-year-old Jeffrey Butler of El Centro — was unhurt.

The consulate had not determined what caused the collision and was focusing instead on identifying the victims and notifying relatives, Rea said.

The truck carrying the coiled steel rolls punctured a gas tank in the crash, spilling about 80 gallons of diesel fuel, the CHP said.