A high-speed pursuit in Texas ended tragically when a human smuggler, transporting five undocumented immigrants, collided head-on with a Chevy SUV on U.S. Highway 57. The incident, which occurred early Wednesday, resulted in the death of eight people, including the two occupants of the SUV and the smuggler.
The Zavala County Sheriff’s deputies were in hot pursuit of a Honda Civic when the driver attempted to overtake an 18-wheeler in a no-passing zone, resulting in the fatal crash. The SUV burst into flames upon impact, instantly killing its occupants, identified as Jose Lerma, 67, and Isabel Lerma, 65, from Dalton, Georgia. The smuggler, a 21-year-old from Houston, and four of the immigrants, all from Honduras, also perished in the crash.
Zavala County Sheriff Eusebio Salinas expressed his concern over the growing issue of human smuggling in the region. He attributed the problem to the strategic location of U.S. Highway 57, which serves as a major route to Mexico.
Salinas revealed that the county has been grappling with an alarming number of pursuits related to human smuggling. “At one point we were averaging 10 to 12 pursuits in a 24-hour period. Yes, that’s an eye-opener, especially in a county my size,” he said. He further disclosed that the county recorded over 400 arrests related to human smuggling cases in the previous year alone.
Local business owner Rebeca Ramirez, who runs a styling salon in the area, shared her fears about the highway’s safety. She referred to it as the “death road” due to the heavy traffic and chaotic conditions, particularly between Eagle Pass and San Antonio.
In a related development, law enforcement officials in Arizona warned in October about human traffickers exploiting social media to recruit drivers for transporting undocumented immigrants across the country. One officer likened the situation to an “Uber for the cartels.”