At least nine suspected illegal immigrants were killed and six injured in a south Texas town when their van rolled over just after a Border Patrol traffic stop, officials said Wednesday.
The crash happened around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night in Palmview, Texas, and most of those involved were Mexican citizens believed to be in the US illegally, Enrique Mendiola, assistant chief for the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, told the Associated Press.
The 7-person van was packed with 19 people when it rolled over Tuesday night on Highway 83, which runs parallel to the Rio Grande River along the US-Mexican border, Reuters reported.
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Three women who were injured in the accident have been treated at a hospital and released to immigration authorities, Sanchez said. Three men were still hospitalized on Wednesday, according to the AP.
The remaining four passengers fled the scene, according to Reuters. Two were caught, while the other two remain on the loose, according to KWTX.
Lenny Sanchez, a police commander in Palmview, told reporters the van did not appear to have been pursued, and the wreck may have been caused by the overcrowding, Reuters reported.
"We see this very frequently, of course," Sanchez said. "We often see vehicles filled with people and the driver takes off running or refuses to stop for police officers."
Human smugglers, called coyotes, often overload vehicles with illegal immigrants and bring them to border areas where they can then continue on to destinations throughout the United States, Reuters reported. The vehicles they drive, usually at high speeds, tend to be top heavy and roll easily.
The US Border Patrol is assisting in the investigation, according to Reuters.
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