A Texas man faces human trafficking charges following the Monday deaths of eight undocumented migrants when he allegedly crashed a vehicle they were in during a police pursuit near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sebastian Tovar, 24, of Austin, was driving a Dodge pickup truck with the migrants as passengers near Del Rio when a state trooper attempted to pull him over for speeding on U.S. Highway 277, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) news release said.
Instead of stopping, Tovar allegedly fled and a chase ensued for 50 miles at speeds of over 100 mph at times. He eventually collided head-on with a Ford F-150.
Eight passengers in the Dodge truck were killed and another was hospitalized. The migrants were Mexican citizens in the United States illegally, authorities said. Seven were men and one was a woman.
The driver of the Ford pickup truck and a child passenger were hospitalized and were in stable condition. Tovar allegedly fled the crash site on foot and was later arrested.
He appeared in federal court Wednesday and is charged with transporting undocumented immigrants resulting in death. He faces up to life in prison.
After the crash, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the scene encountered another pickup truck while directing traffic. Multiple migrants jumped out of the vehicle and fled, authorities said.
Agents took 12 of the migrants into custody. Two of them told agents they were Mexican citizens and admitted to being part of a human smuggling ring, authorities said. They allegedly said they crossed into the U.S. illegally and were divided between Tovar’s truck and the one in which they fled.
Monday’s incident came after 13 people were killed in a crash in California earlier this month when an SUV crammed with migrants collided with a big rig near the U.S.-Mexico border.