Immigrant falls 200 feet to death in canyon in west Imperial County

May 11, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Roberto Gonzalez had made a long trip from his home in Metepec in the state of Mexico to Imperial County, led here by a paid guide — known as a "coyote" — from Tijuana.

That coyote drove Gonzalez, his brother and another man from Tijuana and dropped off the three in the mountains in the southwest corner of the county, where rugged desert provides ideal coverage for those trying to cross the border illegally.

But the desert is filled with danger, from extreme heat to sheer vastness to treacherous terrain.

On Thursday, Gonzalez became the latest local victim of illegal immigration when he fell 200 feet to his death in a canyon in the No Mirage area.

There was little information available on Gonzalez from the county Coroner's Office. The only personal information was he was 40 years old and had traveled a long way to cross the border.


County Coroner Investigator Gary Hayes said Gonzalez, his brother and another man had been walking for hours through the mountains.

Before 7 a.m., Gonzalez, reportedly fatigued from the walk, slipped from a mountain the group was walking on and fell about 200 feet, Hayes said.

The man who had been with Gonzalez and his brother ran down the mountain into the community of Ocotillo. He went to a house and asked people there to call the Border Patrol for help.

By the time authorities reached Gonzalez around 11 a.m., he was dead. Officials had to hike up to his location and then carry out the body.

An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

According to Hayes, the brother and the other man have been returned to Mexico.

Little information was available on the case today from the Mexican consulate in Calexico.

What officials there did say is Gonzalez's body would be flown back to his home, and that the arrangements for that flight were being made today.

Consulate officials said they would cover the cost of the flight.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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