Fatal La Joya crash linked to human smuggling

A fatal collision near La Joya that left two dead and multiple injured stemmed from a human smuggling attempt, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed Friday.

The driver of a 2004 Ford Expedition carrying at least six passengers crashed into a Nissan Sentra on Wednesday morning on U.S Highway 83 as the Expedition’s driver was fleeing from a state trooper. The chase began after the trooper attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the SUV.

The Nissan’s occupants — Leonel Martinez Jr., 45, and Aurora Chavez, 69, of San Juan — were killed in the crash.

At the time of the crash, the Expedition’s driver was heading eastbound on U.S. 83, and six passengers in his vehicle were hospitalized for injuries. Their ages range from 18 to 35, said Lt. Johnny Hernandez, DPS spokesman.

Several of these passengers have since been released from the hospital and taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley sector has not responded to inquiries into the crash.

The Expedition’s driver remains at large, having fled the scene on foot.

Anyone with information on this incident or the whereabouts of the driver is asked to call DPS at (956) 565-7600.