Thursday, July 17, 2008

UPDATE--DEATH in the Desert

Alleged smuggler in wreck named
By SILVIO J. PANTA, Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 10:32 PM PDT

The alleged alien smuggler of a packed Chevrolet Suburban that rolled near Highway 78 on Sunday has been identified, an Imperial County Coroner’s official said Tuesday.

Irvis Jael Gonzalez-Moreno, 18, was the unsecured driver who died after he was ejected while the sport utility vehicle was in motion, said Imperial County Deputy Coroner Thomas Garcia.

Border Patrol authorities suspect Gonzalez was the man who tried smuggling the car full of illegal immigrants who fled the scene of the morning crash.

As many as 23 people were inside the vehicle that was heading east on Midway Well Road. The vehicle blew a tire and flipped when Gonzalez tried turning left onto Highway 78 after running past a stop sign, the California Highway Patrol said.

The speeding vehicle was not being pursued as Gonzalez appeared to have circumvented a checkpoint that was about five miles north of Highway 78, said Yuma Sector Border Patrol agent Ben Vik.

A witness sighted the vehicle that was crowded with people and called authorities, Vik said.

The people inside, some of whom were not secured by seat belts, fled the scene of the accident that left three injured passengers, the Highway Patrol said.

The missing passengers, all of whom were suspected illegal immigrants, went into the open desert. Thomas was confident the people have been accounted for.

“We believe that everyone has been caught,” Garcia said.

>> Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 337-3442 or at

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