Monday, April 7, 2008

One person killed, several injured in I-10 rollover near Benson (Arizona Daily Star)

One person killed, several injured in I-10 rollover near Benson
By Dale Quinn
Tucson, Arizona Published: 04.07.2008

One person was killed early Monday when a van loaded with illegal entrants tried to evade the Border Patrol and rolled on Interstate 10 west of Benson, an official said.
Early indications point to many of the passengers being from Guatemala and Ecuador, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Vincent Picard. Picard had originally reported that one woman was killed in the wreck and two men died on their way to the hospital.
Oscar Padilla, the Guatemalan consular general in Phoenix, is en route to Tucson to meet with the victims and identify their nationalities.
Four of the injured entrants are from Mexico, said Alejandro Ramos Cardoso, a spokesman for the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. The four men are in stable condition in Tucson hospitals, he said.
Two are from Sinaloa, one from Zacatecas and its unknown what state the the fourth is from. Officials haven't confirmed their names or ages yet.
Two smugglers were identified and they will be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Vincent Picard.
“We’re still investigating so I don’t know if there’s going to be more smugglers, but I know we’ve identified two: the driver and the guide,” he said.
The van was westbound on I-10 when it rolled just after 5 a.m. near Empirita Road at milepost 292, about 15 miles west of Benson, said Officer Quent Mehr, a Department of Public Safety spokesman.
As many as 32 people may have been in the van, officials said. Anne-Marie Braswell, a Rural/Metro Fire Department spokeswoman said 23 people were taken to the hospital, 18 by ground and five by air. She said eight of the illegal entrants were found by the U.S. Border Patrol after the crash.
A woman was pronounced dead at the scene. She has not been identified. Of the eight apprehended by Border Patrol, six were taken to the hospital bringing the total injured to 29, Mehr said.
Eight agencies responded to the crash, including DPS, the Tucson Fire Department and Border Patrol. Helicopters scoured the nearby desert looking for additional passengers who may have left the scene.
The Mescal Volunteer Fire Department, which responds to the Mescal/J-6 area west of Benson, was first on the scene at 5:22 a.m. with five firefighters and three trucks, said community director Terri Jo Neff.
There was some concern about first responders being exposed to measles as some of the passengers appeared ill, Neff said.
"We were told that one of the people had measles," Mehr said, adding that he then got information from the hospital that it wasn't measles, but chicken pox.
Patti Woodcock, a spokeswoman for the Pima County Health Department, said her office had not been notified of any cases of measles or chicken pox.
"Since the end of February all hospitals have been on high alert for rash presentations," Woodcock said. She said the Health Department checks with hospitals daily to see if any new cases of the illness have emerged.
Border Patrol agents first spotted the van while conducting traffic stops in the area early Monday.
They did not pursue the van, but it appeared suspicious so they looked for it on I-10 and found it had rolled off the north side of the interstate, Mehr said.
The westbound lanes of I-10 remained open, but the offramp at Empirita Road was closed.

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