The suspected human smuggler who caused a deadly car crash that killed him along with seven others, including two Americans, has been identified as a 17-year-old boy from Honduras, authorities say.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said the accident on Wednesday occurred when the smuggler, who was carrying five illegal immigrants in his vehicle, was fleeing from the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office in Batesville, Texas, when he tried to pass an 18-wheeler in a no-passing zone.
He reportedly went into oncoming traffic and collided with the SUV occupied by two Americans from Georgia. The collision killed the Americans from Georgia, identified as Jose Lerma and Isbael Lerma, who were driving to Mexico. It also killed the boy and the illegal immigrants in the vehicle.
Authorities say the smuggler was from Honduras with a Honduran passport, and his family have been notified. He had been living in Houston, but his immigration status is still unclear. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations is working with the Honduran consulate to investigate.
The incident came amid an ongoing crisis at the southern border, which saw more than 2.4 million migrant encounters in FY 2023, a new record. September also broke the monthly record for encounters, with over 269,000.
That crisis has been accompanied by a number of deadly incidents at the border, as well as car chases between authorities and those trying to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S.
In June, authorities chased a Houston driver who was smuggling illegal migrants on a high-speed chase in which the driver hit speeds of more than 100 mph before crashing into a fence.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which was not involved in the car chase on Wednesday, updated its policies with regard to chases this year, laying out factors that should be considered when agents decide whether a car should be pursued and when a pursuit should be ended.
Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed to lawmakers that there were more than 600,000 gotaways — illegal migrants who evaded apprehension but were noted via other forms of detection — in fiscal year 2023.
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