At least three people were treated at a Tucson hospital and one man is facing multiple potential criminal charges after a vehicle carrying a group of suspected undocumented immigrants rolled over on a back road in Eastern Santa Cruz County.
Dispatch reports show that the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the U.S. Border Patrol’s Sonoita Station at 3:10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, alerting them to the rollover.
According to Sheriff’s Sgt. Santiago Gonzales, the incident occurred in the San Rafael Valley, approximately three miles south of Harshaw Road, and involved a Mercury Monterrey van.
Border Patrol agents had engaged the van in what Gonzales described as a “low-speed pursuit,” with their lights and sirens activated. However, he said, the driver refused to pull over.
When the driver swerved to avoid a tire deflation device that had been deployed in the roadway, he lost control and rolled over, Gonzales said. The vehicle had been traveling at approximately 40 mph, he said.
There were seven people inside the van at the time, six of whom were suspected to be undocumented foreign nationals, Gonzales said, though he did not have information about their nationalities or ages.
One female passenger was reportedly airlifted to UMC Banner Hospital in Tucson, and two others were taken there via ground transportation.
“The extent of the injuries, as far as we know, were not severe. I think if anything, it was more of a precaution,” Gonzales said of the hospitalizations.
The driver was a U.S. citizen – a 55-year-old resident of Mesa, Ariz. – and was arrested and taken to the Sonoita Border Patrol Station pending a determination of prosecution on federal smuggling charges.
At the same time, the Sheriff’s Office conducted its own DUI investigation.
“There were signs and symptoms of impairment, and then in speaking with the driver, there was also some information that he had consumed drugs as well,” Gonzales said.
The results of the completed DUI investigation will be presented to the County Attorney’s Office, he said.