A suspected human smuggler appeared in federal court for the first time Tuesday, facing charges for a crash that killed two undocumented immigrants and left another brain dead, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Lydiana Castro, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen from Calexico, is facing one count of illegally transporting aliens, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said. At her Tuesday hearing, she chose to forgo a detention hearing and remain in custody, Duffy said.
Castro was arrested on March 23 near Andrade, Calif., Duffy said.
According to a federal complaint, a Border Patrol agent spotted several people running into a Dodge Durango stopped at a gas station at Sidewinder Road and Interstate 8. At the time, the Dodge was driven by Castro, the complaint alleges.
Castro later told a Homeland Security Investigations agent she picked up the undocumented immigrants at the gas station and started driving to Yuma, according to the complaint.
When an agent tried to pull the car over, it first slowed down and then sped off, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges Castro later told investigators she panicked and hit the gas pedal, not knowing what to do when agents signaled for her to pull over.
As Castro accelerated, she lost control of the car, crashing into a semi-truck going down Interstate 8, the complaint alleges. As a result, the car became entangled in the truck's frame, and the truck driver had to pull onto the shoulder, according to the complaint.
When BP agents approached the car, they found five undocumented Mexican nationals inside, the U.S. Attorney said. Two of the men in the car, Gustavo Sanchez-Orta and Jose Magdiel May-Gonzalez, were pronounced dead at the scene. Castro was taken to a Yuma hospital and the three remaining men were taken to a Phoenix hospital.
One of the undocumented immigrants is brain dead as a result of the crash, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Martin told U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Lewis in court Tuesday. Another man is paralyzed from the waist down and the third has been in and out of consciousness since the crash.
Castro could face 10 years in prison.
A status hearing is scheduled in El Centro federal court at 10 a.m. Friday.