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Agency: Deadly Ariz. crash involved immigrants

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Arizona authorities describe a chaotic scene from a weekend crash involving an SUV packed with 20 immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala as it fled the Border Patrol and flipped over, killing five people and injuring 15.

The vehicle was wrecked so badly that authorities had difficulty determining its make and model, and two injured immigrants attempted to flee the scene on foot but were apprehended.

The crash is the latest in a series of deadly wrecks involving immigrants being smuggled into Arizona from Mexico in recent years. It highlights the dangers faced by people trying to enter the country illegally.

The Chevrolet wrecked Saturday night while exiting Interstate 10 about 20 miles east of Tucson, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Monday.

Border Patrol agents were about a quarter-mile behind it when the crash occurred on the off-ramp to State Route 83, the department said.

“They were following it,” Graves said. “The driver obviously got nervous and decided to try to elude them.”

Department of Public Safety investigators believed the passengers had entered the U.S. illegally, he said.

Graves added the SUV apparently was a Tahoe, but investigators were uncertain because the vehicle was so badly damaged when it rolled and landed on its roof.

Of the 15 injured people, 13 were found at the scene, while two others ran off and were taken into custody by Border Patrol agents several miles away, Graves said.

Those hurt were taken to Tucson hospitals for treatment of injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening, Graves said. The vehicle’s driver was among them.

Graves said it could be a week or more before investigators formally declare the accident’s cause, but it appeared the driver lost control while driving too fast.

A spokeswoman for the Mexican consulates for Arizona did not immediately return a call for comment. Guatemalan Vice Counsul Jessica Mendoza declined to immediately discuss the crash, saying consular officials were awaiting confirmed information.

The Border Patrol said in a brief statement released late Sunday that agents tried unsuccessfully to stop the vehicle as it traveled west on I-10.

Border Patrol spokesman Brent Cagen declined to elaborate on the circumstances of the crash, or to comment on whether the vehicle’s passengers were in the country illegally.

Arizona has seen multiple fatalities in accidents involving vehicles carrying people who had entered the United States illegally.

A May 2012 crash in Casa Grande of a vehicle carrying 11 immigrants killed four people.

In June 2009, 11 of at least 27 immigrants “stacked like wood” were killed in an SUV rollover near Sonoita.

An August 2008 rollover near Florence killed 10 of 19 immigrants in an SUV.

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