On Thursday, November 29, U.S. Border Patrol discovered tire tracks near the United States-Mexico border heading in the direction of the U.S., according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection press release. Border Patrol believes that someone was attempting to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. The smuggling attempt across the border ended in a tragic crash, with three of the 11 passengers dying on the scene.
While Border Patrol agents came across the tire tracks, the agents also found pieces of a vehicle at the suspected border break-through. An open-bed pickup truck — with pieces missing — was later spotted as the agents followed the tire tracks into the U.S. Agents attempted to stop the vehicle, but instead it picked up speed. The chase continued on Interstate 8 (I-8) heading east. The pickup truck exited I-8, but then got back on going in the opposite direction. Border Patrol agents tried again to stop the vehicle, this time using a Controlled Tire Deflation Device. Shortly after the device deployed, the truck lost control. It drove up an embankment and crashed. The vehicle rolled over, and passengers were thrown from the bed of the pickup.
Border Patrol agents have called the incident a “typical drive-through smuggling event.” The driver of this drive-through attempt was identified as Luis Alberto Virgen, 21, a U.S. citizen living in Tijuana, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The remaining 10 passengers, nine males and one female, are believed to be illegal immigrants. Three passengers, including the female, were pronounced dead at the scene. The other seven individuals were taken to a local hospital for medical treatment.
Approximately an hour after the border break-through, Border Patrol agents found another vehicle that is believed to have been part of the drive-through smuggling event, according to U.S. Border Patrol. A male was taken into custody in connection with the second vehicle.
Border Patrol believes the smugglers busted through a “tank trap” to enter the country, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. A “tank trap” is a barrier made of large poles and barbed wire that is placed along the border to prohibit vehicles from traveling through. Agents said that the poles were cut at the base, and were likely moved out of the way. Likewise, the wires had been cut. However, the smugglers had replaced the poles after driving through — so as to not raise suspicion. The wires had also been tied back together.
The investigation is still under way. Border Patrol agents are working with the California Highway Patrol in the investigation of the crash.