Eight people have been killed after a car suspected of carrying smuggled migrants crashed while trying to evade police.
The crash happened between the suspect car and an oncoming vehicle on the South Texas highway on Wednesday around 6.30am.
The car, allegedly driven by a 21-year-old driver from Houston and thought to be carrying five passengers, crashed with a Chevrolet Equinox, which caught fire when attempting to pass a semi-truck, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Everyone in both vehicles was killed; some of the passengers in the Honda were from Honduras, and the two people in the Chevrolet were from Georgia, department spokesperson Christopher Olivares said on X.
The victims in the Chevrolet have been identified by the spokesperson as Jose Lerma, 67, and Isabel Lerma, 65, who lived in Dalton, Georgia.
Several fatal accidents and disasters have occurred as a result of human smuggling in recent years.
In June 2022, four migrants involved in a smuggling attempt were killed after a police chase in Encinal, Texas. In November 2022, one person was also killed, and 11 others were injured, also in Texas, as a result of a police car chase of a suspected smuggling vehicle.
More horrific smuggling cases have also occurred in recent years. Last year, more than 50 migrants were found dead after a big truck was abandoned in the direct heat and is believed to have been the deadliest smuggling case in the US’ recent history.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas has recorded 106 deaths as a result of Border Patrol vehicle pursuits from January 2010 to June 2023.
The deaths averaged 3.5 a year, but the number spiked in 2020, which prompted officials to develop a new policy introducing more safety in vehicle pursuits.
Last year, the ACLU and another civil rights group sent a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department over high-speed pursuits along the Texas border.
The groups claimed they had counted 30 deaths and 71 injuries since the start of Operation Lone Star in 2021, a mission to counter illegal entering of the country in Texas.
Director Steve McCraw from the Texas Department of Public Safety did not deny that his troopers have been involved in countless law enforcement pursuits during the last two years.
Chases are called off “it becomes an unreasonable risk to the public or yourself,” Mr McCraw said, according to AP, saying that police back off if a law enforcement aircraft is dispatched to keep an eye on the vehicle.
“The problem with that is when we’ve done that, they continue to drive fast,” he said. “So once the chase is on, it’s not like they just slow down.”