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8 people killed when driver suspected of human smuggling crashes in Texas

Eight people were killed when a driver suspected of human smuggling tried to evade authorities and crashed head-on into another vehicle, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

The crash occurred around 6:30 a.m. on U.S. Highway 57 near Batesville, about 83 miles southwest of San Antonio.

The driver, 21, who was in a Honda, had evaded authorities from the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office and “passed an 18-wheeler in a no-passing zone,” Lt. Chris Olivarez, a spokesperson with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said by email and in a post on X.

The driver crashed head-on into a Chevrolet SUV, causing the vehicle to burst into flames, Olivarez said. Photos released by the agency showed both vehicles completely mangled, with debris scattered across the highway.

Six people were in the Honda, Olivarez said. Two people from Georgia were in the Chevrolet SUV. Everyone was killed, officials said.

Several of the people in the Honda were from Honduras, Olivarez said.

Names of some of the dead were being withheld until family members can be notified, authorities said. The crash remains under investigation.

The two people in the Chevrolet SUV that were killed were identified as Jose Lerma, 67, and Isabel Lerma, 65, of Dalton, Georgia.

Last year, more than 50 migrants were found dead in an abandoned big rig in the sweltering heat of San Antonio in what is believed to be the deadliest human smuggling case in modern U.S. history. The discovery was made when a person who worked in the area heard someone crying for help and spotted at least one body, officials said.

Multiple crashes, some fatal, have also been linked to human smuggling cases. Last November, one person was killed and 11 others were hospitalized in La Joya, Texas, about 5 miles from the Mexico border, when the driver evaded law enforcement and disregarded a red light. Authorities suspected the case involved human smuggling because of the number of people involved.

A similar crash occurred in Encinal, Texas, in June 2022 when four migrants were killed and two others were injured when a vehicle carrying the migrants crashed into a TNI Trucking Co. vehicle.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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