A man who crossed into the U.S. illegally and the man tasked with driving him to safety were killed Tuesday night when the stolen car they were in slammed into the back of a semi-truck in Otay Mesa, officials confirmed.
A third person in the vehicle -- a woman who crossed illegally with the man between ports of entry near the Cross Border Xpress terminal -- was airlifted to an area hospital with critical injuries, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.
Border Patrol Agent Justin Casterjon said it is being investigated as a human smuggling incident.
The man and woman were seen on cameras crossing the border before running about a mile to Otay Mesa Road and Alta Road where a man in a stolen Volvo was waiting to pick them up, Casterjon said.
"This was organized," Casterjon said. "This was very organized for having a driver here waiting for specific time, specific time for people to cross the border."
Casterjon said agents tried to pull the car over, but it sped off on Otay Mesa and reached speeds faster than 100 miles per hour before it hit a semi-truck near Sanyo Avenue, less than a half-mile away, just after 6 p.m.
The impact sheered the roof of the vehicle off and sent the car into a ravine.
The car came to a rest on its wheels on a grassy plain about 20 feet below the roadway.
Two men in the driver and front passenger seats died at the scene, according to Casterjon. The woman had to be extricated from the vehicle before being life-flighted to a nearby hospital.
"This is a very tragic event. This is something as a Border Patrol agent you never want to see," he said.
Casterjon did not say how the man and woman were able to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Neither CBP nor the San Diego Police Department had information about how the Volvo came to be stolen but Casterjon said they ran the plates and found it was reported stolen.
A crowd of firefighters, CHP officers and Border Patrol agents were seen examining the car and other debris around it after the crash.
The semi-truck driver was OK but visibly shaken, SDPD Sgt. Leonard Flake said.
Because the crash occurred within San Diego city limits, the San Diego Police Department will be investigating the crash portion of the incident. CBP will be investigating how the two people were able to cross the border and the events leading to the crash.
In November, three people were killed and eight were injured when a truck crashed while being pursued by border patrol agents.
In March, a driver attempting to flee border patrol agents also reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour before crashing and injuring four people, CBP said.
In Sept. 2017, a U.S. citizen and two Mexican nationals were killed on Interstate 15 in Rancho Bernardo when their car flipped over a guardrail while being pursued by CBP.
Earlier in 2017, nine people were hurt -- one critically -- in a crash near Lake Morena County Park not far from the border. The crash happened during a chase with border patrol.
No other information was available.
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