An SUV carrying at least 15 people believed to be immigrants flipped and crashed southwest of Houston early Thursday, according to officials. Six people were killed and several were injured, police said.
Police are trying to determine who was driving the 2003 Ford Explorer when it crashed 90 miles southwest of Houston in Edna, Texas, Fox reports. Police were attempting to stop the Explorer for a traffic violation around 1:30 a.m. when the driver sped off, according to a statement by the Edna Police Department.
The police chase only lasted 10 minutes before the vehicle overcorrected and flipped several times. There were no other vehicles involved in the early morning accident.
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene and two others, who were airlifted to a hospital in Houston, died later. Another person remained in the hospital Thursday, according to NBC News. Eight people were treated for injuries and are now with federal immigration officials, New York Times reports.
Two people who fled the scene were caught and detained, police chief Clinton Wooldridge said. Officials are attempting to determine if human smugglers were involved. And authorities are trying to identify the victims.
Wooldridge said some of the victims came from Guatemala and Honduras. He does not have any information on their legal status. Police added that the car was carrying adults and the youngest, who was killed, was 18.
Wooldridge said the vehicle had the ability to hold several passengers. “Officers noted that the rear seat in the vehicle had been folded down and the middle seat had previously been removed, apparently to create more room in the vehicle,” he said.
He added that based on past experience, “15 people in an eight-passenger vehicle” could be sign of smuggling. Such vehicles can be pulled over up to four times per week when officers in the area participate in a Homeland Security grant program, like Operation Stonegarden, that gives officers searching for smugglers resources, NY Times reports.
Wooldridge said that “tragic” events like this don’t happen very often. However, immigrants “bailing out of their vehicles and running off into the pastures” is common in Edna, Texas.