A SUV flipped and crashed near Houston, Thursday. The van, thought to be carrying 15 immigrants, killed six individuals in the crash. Officials are attempting to find out if human smugglers were involved.
The New York Times reports that officers attempted to stop the vehicle, a 2003 Ford Explorer, for a moving violation. The driver failed to stop, speeding away, heading North on Highway 59. The highway runs between two cities, on the border of Mexico, and the northeast border of Arkansas and Louisiana.
Four individuals were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other two deaths occurred after they were airlifted to a Houston hospital. One still remains in the hospital. Some of the passengers attempted to flee the scene on foot, but were taken into custody of federal immigration officials, after being treated for their injuries.
The passengers have not yet been determined to be undocumented immigrants. Some of the passengers have been identified, coming from Honduras and Guatemala. The vehicle had only adult passengers, with the youngest, aged 18, not surviving the crash.
Edna Police Chief Clinton Woodridge says, “Something this tragic happens very seldomly, thank God,” however adding that immigrants, “bailing out of their vehicles and running off into the pastures” is a common occurrence.
The vehicles in question often carry immigrants who are transported by smugglers in exchange for money. Vehicles are pulled over in that area as often as four times a week. Officers in the area participate in a program known as Operation Stoneguard, which offers incentives to officers for searching for smugglers. Woodridge states that Edna does not participate in such a program.
The chase lasted no more than 10 minutes, after the driver over-corrected the vehicle, causing it to flip, and eject a few of the passengers. No other vehicles were involved in the crash.