Temecula, CA Truck Overturns Kills Seven, Apr 1996



The Associated Press.
Temecula, Calif. - A stolen truck crammed with suspected illegal immigrants overturned on a rural road while being followed by Border Patrol agents Saturday, killing seven men and injuring 18 others.
The crash happened about 5:30 a.m. when the truck's driver lost control of the truck on a curvy, hilly road and it overturned in a gully, crushing its cab.
"When we pulled up, we had people all over the bank," said Riverside County fire Capt. Tom Drayer. "We had the truck upside down. We had people sticking out of all different avenues."
One survivor was flown to a hospital with serious head injuries; the extent of the others' injuries was not immediately known. Firefighters found one man with a leg injury in a nearby avocado orchard.
The identities of the dead and injured weren't immediately known, although all were men between the ages of 20 and 30, Drayer said.
The driver sped up after being followed by the agents for about 12 miles. The agents were not chasing the truck and did not flash lights or sound a siren, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ralph Martinez.
It wasn't immediately clear if the driver was among those killed or whether he knew the Border Patrol agents were behind him.
The accident happened less than a week after a truck filled with illegal immigrants was chased from the Temecula area over 80 miles to South El Monte in Los Angeles County. The chase ended with the videotaped beating of two illegal immigrants by Riverside County sheriff's officers.
The truck involved in Saturday's accident overturned on a two-lane paved road in the Riverside County community of Santa Rosa, a rugged area filled with citrus and avocado orchards northwest of Temecula. Temecula is about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Firefighters used inflatable plastic bags and wooden blocks to lift the crushed truck and extricate victims. Several hours later, they began removing the bodies.
Border Patrol agents were monitoring an area about 12 miles southwest of the crash site when they spotted the pickup truck with Hawaii license plates and decided to follow, but not chase the vehicle.
It was not clear exactly what made the agents suspicious; the area they were in is regularly monitored because it contains eight different routes motorists can use to evade an immigration checkpoint in Temecula.
As they followed the truck, the agents discovered it had been reported stolen Feb. 16 from San Diego County.
Border Patrol agents are forbidden in most instances from chasing a car suspected of harboring illegal immigrants if it is believed that the pursuit could endanger civilians.
The policy arose in 1992, when five people were struck and killed outside Temecula High School by a car fleeing Border Patrol agents.

The Springfield News-Leader Missouri 1996-04-07