June 6 (UPI) -- A vehicle packed with more than a dozen Central American migrants crashed into a ditch in eastern Texas Wednesday, killing six, authorities said.
Police tried to pull the vehicle over but were led on a high-speed chase in the outskirts of Robstown, about 20 miles west of Corpus Christi. During the chase, officers lost the vehicle in the rain but later found it at the bottom of a 15-foot ditch on Highway 77.
Six men were found dead inside the vehicle while six others were found injured outside. Officials said the driver, likely hired to illegally transport the migrants, fled the scene.
"In my 13 years, it's one of those that's up there -- it was a gruesome scene," said Roland Padilla, Robstown emergency medical services chief.
The pursuit started when police saw the vehicle speeding. Officers gave chase but lost sight of the sport-utility vehicle in a bushy area outside Robstown, Police Chief Erasmo Flores said.
A resident called 911 to report an injured person knocking on their door. That person has not been found. Another call reported two injured men walking near a road in the area. They were found by police and, hours later, led officers to the crash scene.
The men were all in their late teens or early 20s, police said.
"It has a classic appearance of human trafficking," Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper said. "We are a pipeline. We are on a corridor straight to Houston, Texas, and these first responders deal with it every day."
Since 2012, 40 undocumented men, women and children have been killed in police chases in South Texas. The drivers are usually smugglers who refuse to pull over and lead police on deadly high-speed chases in rural areas.