8 dead in crash after police chased a suspected human smuggler, Texas officials say

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Eight people died Wednesday when the driver of a car suspected of carrying smuggled migrants fled police and smashed into an oncoming vehicle on a South Texas highway.

The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. when the driver of a 2009 Honda Civic tried to outrun deputies from the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office and attempted to pass a semi truck, the state Department of Public Safety said. The Civic collided with a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, which caught fire.

Everyone in both vehicles was killed, according to DPS. That includes the 21-year-old driver of the Civic, who was from Houston, and his five passengers. Some of the passengers were from Honduras, department spokesman Christopher Olivarez said in a statement. The two people in the Equinox were from Georgia.

The identities of those killed will be released to their families first, Olivarez said.

It was unclear how fast the vehicles were going, but photos provided by law enforcement show both were mangled and most of the Equinox was burned.

Wednesday's crash near Batesville — about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio — is the latest deadly vehicle crash involving migrants, marking the highest death toll since 13 people died in a collision in remote Holtville, California, in March 2021.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has tallied 106 deaths in Border Patrol vehicle pursuits from January 2010 to June of this year. Deaths averaged 3.5 a year through 2019 but spiked in 2020, leading officials to develop a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward increasing safety.

The policy announced in January stops short of prohibiting chases but, according to CBP, “provides a clear framework for weighing the risks of conducting pursuits, such as the dangers they present to the public, against the law enforcement benefit or need.”

Local law enforcement agencies have been involved in fatal crashes as well in recent years. In June 2022, four migrants were killed in a smuggling attempt following a police chase in the South Texas city of Encinal, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Wednesday's crash.

The Zavala County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.


Spagat reported from San Diego.