San Diego

Border Patrol Pursuit Crash on Westbound I-8 Near Pine Valley

U.S. Border Patrol agents were in pursuit of the vehicle moments before the crash, officials confirmed

A driver leading a pursuit with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers attempted to run after he crashed his vehicle along Interstate 8 in San Diego's East County, injuring four passengers. 

The pursuit began at approximately 10:45 a.m. on the westbound lanes of I-8 and reached speeds of up to 100 mph, according to the California Highway Patrol and CBP officials.

Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Olmos told NBC 7 that CBP officers tried to stop the vehicle under suspicion of human smuggling.

Five adults were in the blue Ford Expedition when the pursuit began near Buckman Springs Road, according to the CHP.

When the vehicle met up with slower traffic, it veered down an embankment, crashed in the center median of the highway and rolled onto its roof.

The driver, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen, attempted to run on foot from the crash but he was located and taken into custody. Four others were rushed by ambulance to Sharp Memorial and Scripps Mercy hospitals.

Of the four passengers taken to the hospital, three were determined to be Mexican Nationals, according to Agent Olmos.

Olmos said the legal status of the four passengers would be determined upon their release from the hospital.

Cal Fire crews ventured down rugged terrain in difficult conditions to rescue two victims from the bottom of a steep ravine.

Two victims were taken to hospitals in serious condition by air ambulance. The other two occupants were transported in ground ambulances with moderate to minor injuries.

U.S. Border Patrol agents were in pursuit of the vehicle moments before the crash, said spokesperson Michael Scappechio.

The location given by Cal Fire officials is I-8 at Japatul Valley Road in Descanso. Just before noon, vehicle traffic was traveling westbound along I-8 near the crash scene. 

Two of the passengers were not wearing their seatbelts and were ejected from the SUV, according to CHP officers.

The driver is facing a failure to yield charge.

Some law enforcement agencies back off pursuits as a matter of policy when the chase becomes too dangerous to prevent death or serious injury.

NBC 7 asked the USBP what risk is involved with yielding or letting suspected criminals go.

"Well, when a Border Patrol agent attempts to stop a vehicle it's because they're suspected of criminal activity," Scappechio said. "We don't know what that criminal activity is until we complete the stop."

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