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14 injured when overloaded SUV flips on interstate

May 29, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Fourteen people, all suspected undocumented immigrants, were hurt Monday when the vehicle they were in flipped on Interstate 8 after the driver swerved to avoid a U.S. Border Patrol tire-deflation device.

The suspected driver, Marcia Rodolfo Sanchez, 20, a Mexican national, was arrested by Border Patrol agents after he attempted to run from the crash scene.

Sanchez was booked into the county jail on suspicion of causing injury and fleeing peace officers. His bail was set at $20,000.

The incident started shortly before 6 a.m. Monday. Border Patrol agents saw a sport-utility vehicle cross the border in the east desert area. The SUV drove through the desert toward Interstate 8 near the Brock Research Center.

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Agents attempted to stop the vehicle but the driver would not yield. The decision was made to lay out the tire-deflation device.

Border Patrol Agent Manuel Figueroa said the driver swerved the vehicle around the deflation device and as he moved onto the interstate he lost control of the SUV. The vehicle flipped on the interstate and crashed into the median.

Figueroa said there were 19 people crammed into the SUV, all thought to be undocumented immigrants. He said 14 suffered injuries. Nine were taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center and five were taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center.

While information on the occupants' conditions was unavailable this morning, Figueroa said none of the injuries was life-threatening.

Five people were not injured and were taken into custody at the accident scene. Figueroa said there was no information that any people fled without being taken into custody.

The identities of the injured and the others taken into custody were unavailable.

Figueroa said the Border Patrol likely will look at charging the driver with endangerment to send a message to smugglers. He said smugglers are not concerned with the safety of those they are transporting into the United States.

"It's all about the money," he said. "That's the bottom line."

Figueroa said the average that people pay for illegal passage across the border is $1,000 to $1,200.

He said in Monday's case, 19 people were jammed into a vehicle not meant to hold that many.

"It is a common thing," Figueroa said. "They are trying to put as many people as they can to get these people north."

Figueroa said if illegal immigrants do make it to an area such as Los Angeles, they may be held hostage until family members can make the full payment for the journey.

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

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