DALLAS (AP) — Five people have been charged in a “smuggling scheme” following the fatal crash of an SUV that was fleeing Border Patrol agents and sheriff’s deputies in South Texas, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the western district of Texas said the charges were filed in connection to the Sunday crash that killed at least five people. Investigators have said the vehicle was carrying 14 people and traveling more than 100 mph when it lost control and overturned on Texas Highway 85 near Big Wells.
Most of the SUV’s occupants were ejected.
The Border Patrol has said two other vehicles were traveling alongside the SUV earlier in the day, and that an agent suspected the vehicles were conducting a “smuggling event.” The border agent stopped one of the vehicles, and another agent stopped a second one. Multiple people from both vehicles were arrested.
The third vehicle kept going when agents encountered it, and a sheriff’s deputy took over the chase prior to the fatal crash, the border patrol said.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that nearly two dozen immigrants were involved in the smuggling scheme.
Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd said Sunday that four victims were dead at the scene of the crash, while at least one other person died at a hospital. Most of the occupants in the SUV were believed in the country without legal permission. Boyd said the driver and one passenger were believed to be U.S. citizens.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions over the treatment of immigrants at the southern U.S. border. The Trump administration has said tougher immigration policies — even separating children from their parents — are needed to deter immigrants from coming to the country illegally.