The Jeep crashed early Thursday in Encinal County, Texas, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety South Texas Region/Twitter
July 1 (UPI) -- A Jeep being chased by police on suspicion of human smuggling smashed into a tractor-trailer in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing four people and critically injuring three others, authorities said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said troops are investigating the crash, which occurred Thursday at Interstate 35 and East Texas Highway 44 in Encinal County, located just north of the Mexican border.
"The driver suspected of human smuggling evaded law enforcement & crashed into a commercial vehicle," the department tweeted with a picture of the white Jeep that had sustained considerable damage from the crash.
The Encinal Police Department said in a statement that the pursuit happened Thursday morning when it received a call from the U.S. Border Patrol requesting assistance.
Officers were en route to intercept when they saw the suspected vehicle lose control and crash into the tractor-trailer on Interstate 35 "at a high rate of speed."
Chris Olivarez, the Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman for the south Texas region, tweeted that the four dead were migrants. The driver of the Jeep, who was among the critically injured, was airlifted to hospital.
This week, authorities in an unrelated case charged four people in the deaths of 53 migrants who were abandoned in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio. The case is believed to be among the deadliest human smuggling cases in Texas history.
In response, Gov. Greg Abbott announced checkpoints targeting semi-trucks and the deployment of additional resources to combat illegal border crossings.