6 People Killed in Crash During Police Chase in Houston, TX; Vehicle Being Pursued Held 15 Immigrants

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Six people were killed when an overcrowded sport utility vehicle believed to be carrying 15 immigrants flipped and crashed southwest of Houston early Thursday, according to Texas officials, who are trying to determine whether human smugglers were involved.

Police officials in Edna, Tex., said officers attempted to stop a 2003 Ford Explorer for a moving violation around 1:30 a.m. when the driver sped away, heading north toward Houston on Highway 59. Within the state, the highway runs from Laredo, on the border with Mexico, to Texarkana, on the northeast border with Louisiana and Arkansas.

Four people were pronounced dead at the scene, and two others who were airlifted to a hospital in Houston later died; one person remained in the hospital on Thursday, the Edna police chief, Clinton Wooldridge, said.

Several passengers attempted to flee on foot, Chief Wooldridge said, but were later taken into custody. Eight people were treated for injuries and turned over to federal immigration officials.

Some passengers were identified as being from Honduras and Guatemala, the chief said, but officials have not yet determined whether the victims were undocumented immigrants. The police said that the car was carrying adults and that the youngest passenger, who did not survive, was 18.

He said the Department of Homeland Security was investigating whether the passengers were being transported by smugglers, and the authorities were still trying to determine whether the driver survived the crash.

But “15 people in an eight-passenger vehicle,” he said, could be an indication of smuggling, based on past experience.

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SOURCE: DAVID MONTGOMERY and KATIE ROGERS
The New York Times

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