Suspected smuggler’s SUV crashes near Mexican border; 1 dead, 2 hurt

A suspected smuggler’s SUV overturned in a remote desert wash early Friday, killing one passenger, injuring two others and causing an extensive law enforcement search for the victims near the San Diego-Imperial County line.

Among the SUV occupants was a man from Brazil, five men and a boy from Mexico, and four men of unspecified national origin who are lawfully admitted permanent United States residents, a Border Patrol official said. The driver was arrested.

The driver called 911 on a cellphone, reaching San Diego County sheriff’s dispatchers about 1 a.m. to report the crash involving several people allegedly smuggled across the Mexican border. The information was relayed to the Border Patrol’s El Centro office.

The cellphone signal was centered around Ocotillo in Imperial County along Interstate 8 and agents began searching that area west into San Diego County, Border Patrol Agent Guillermo Esparza said. Other agents searched along county road S2 near state Route 78.


The Civil Air Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations were notified, Esparza said.

Authorities received another 911 call about 3:20 a.m. from a man who said his arm was broken and his chest crushed when the vehicle rolled on him and into a ditch. A second man had fallen and was unconscious, according to information from the California Highway Patrol.

Both callers tried to describe their location about five miles past train tracks running north into the desert, and a trestle bridge.

A CHP aircraft crew finally spotted the wreckage in a wash in the Carrizo Impact Range about 7:20 a.m. The area is within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and rangers assisted in the search, a parks official said.

Border Patrol agents reached the victims and found one Mexican man dead. A seriously injured man was airlifted to a hospital. A Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations helicopter crew helped agents on the ground follow footprints leading to the driver, who had walked away, Esparza said. The man was arrested on suspicion of smuggling people.


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