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Border Patrol agent found dead while on duty in Arizona

(Twitter Photo/@CBPMarkMorgan)

PHOENIX – A U.S. Border Patrol agent died after apparently falling and hitting his head while on duty in a remote part of southern Arizona on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

Robert Hotten, 44, was responding to sensor activity on Mount Washington when he stopped communicating with fellow agents via radio, Tucson Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Roy Villareal said during a news conference Monday.

“The agents began to search for him, found him unresponsive and then immediately began lifesaving efforts,” Villareal said.

Hotten couldn’t be airlifted because of the rugged terrain in the area, Villareal said, and it was difficult to get medical equipment to him.

“It appears that he had fallen and may have hit his head on some rocks. … At this stage we’re not sure if that was the cause of death or if there was some other underlying effect,” Villareal said.

Agents wound up hiking up the mountain with a defibrillator and rescue basket in efforts to safe Hotten’s life, he said.

They eventually carried Hotten for 25 minutes in the basket, known as a litter, to where he could be airlifted. He was transported to a hospital in Nogales, where he was pronounced dead.

“The effort that was put forward by the agents out there was heroic,” Villareal said, noting that the rescue attempt went on for several hours.

Hotton, who is survived by a wife and son, is the 14th Tucson Sector border agent to die in the line of duty, Villareal said.

Villareal said a group of around seven migrants in the country illegally apparently set off the sensor that Hotten and two other agents responded to. One person was taken into custody, he said.

The FBI was investigating the incident, he said.

Agent Joe Curran told KTAR News 92.3 FM that Hotten was found south of Patagonia, about 18 miles northeast of Nogales.

“Anytime one of our own passes away in the line of duty, it’s just a stark reminder of the dangers that all our Border Patrol agents face day in and day out in doing this job,” Curran said.

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said Hotten had served in the agency for 10 years.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report. 

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