The Main Stream

Apr 22, 2013 9:08 PM by Sam Salzwedel

Border Patrol reviewing rollover that killed 5

TUCSON - Border Patrol is investigating to make sure agents followed procedures after a deadly rollover, according to Customs and Border Protection Public Affairs Manager Victor Brabble.

A Chevy Tahoe packed with 20 people rolled, killing 5, Saturday night near Interstate 10 and State Route 83.

All of the people inside were from Guatemala or Mexico, and most did not have identification, according to Arizona Department of Public Safety Media Relations Manager Bart Graves.

The driver survived the crash, according to Graves.

Kat Rodriguez works for Derechos Humans, helping undocumented immigrants.

"The power is completely in the hands of the guide," she said. "What are you going to do? Be in the middle of the desert and say, ‘Wow, this is an unsafe number of people. I'm uncomfortable with this. Can I stay behind?' That's not going to happen."

She is upset Border Patrol pursued the vehicle and put the people in and outside the SUV in danger.

"Nobody's advocating for letting people go," Rodriguez said. "You have other resources. You don't have to engage in a high-speed chase."

Neither Border Patrol nor DPS will confirm if it was a high-speed chase. Border Patrol spotted the SUV near Benson and was a mile or 2 behind when it crashed, according to Graves.

Border Patrol has a policy for pursuing people who flee, but sharing the information would be a bad idea, according to Brabble.

"We do not want that used against us," Brabble said. "With that knowledge in the wrong hands, it could be used against us by the various criminal organizations."

A DPS supervisor can call off a chase, depending on circumstances. They like to use a helicopter to follow vehicles when they can, according to Graves.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department will also call off pursuits if it is too dangerous, but there are a lot of factors in the decision, according to PCSD Deputy Tom Peine.

Hours after the crash, 2 of the victims were found with serious injuries farther up the road, according to Rincon Valley Fire District Assistant Chief Lee Bucklin.

A young boy was one of the dead, according to Bucklin.

The Guatemalan and Mexican Consulates are helping identify the dead and assisting the injured.

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