A fatal car accident in Utah has become the site of a police investigation into human smuggling. A minivan carrying nine people rolled over in the early hours of the morning, leaving four people dead and four others in serious or critical condition. The accident, which occurred approximately 30 miles from the Colorado border on Interstate 70, is not thought to have involved any other vehicles, and is currently under investigation by police officials. Todd Royce, a Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant, has said that at approximately 4:30 in the morning, a 1999 Toyota Sienna lost control and rolled down the highway, throwing multiple occupants from the vehicle. The ninth occupant of the vehicle, who is thought to be a woman, walked away from the accident and was picked up in another car.
The vehicle, which was not registered in Utah, was allegedly travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago, transporting immigrants looking for work. All of the occupants of the vehicle were Hispanic, and Royce does not believe that any of the occupants spoke English, adding credence to the idea that the accident involved humansmuggling. In fact, the details of the accident have been acknowledged by Brian Redd, a Major in the Utah Department of Public Safety, as indicative of human smugglers learning how to improve their chances of evading capture. For example, the van was travelling at night, when there are fewer observers around. Furthermore, the smugglers were using a minivan instead of a larger, and more conspicuous, panel van or truck.
Brian Redd has said that human smuggling is not particularly uncommon in Utah, and that Interstate 70, the site of this latest fatal accident, is simply one of many routes commonly used by human smugglers. Furthermore, although Utah is often only a stop along the route to cities such as Chicago or New York due to its relatively central location, Salt Lake City is itself a destination for many illegal immigrants looking for work. These immigrants, who pay anywhere from 5000 to 30000 dollars to be smuggled into the United States of America, are often put into very vulnerable positions, according to Leo Lucey, the head of the investigations division at the Utah Attorney General’s Office. In fact, according to Lucey, illegal immigrants are often forced into prostitution or slavery due to the fact that they are entirely at the mercy of criminals when they enter the country.
Despite the best efforts of police, the problem of human smuggling continues to haunt states such as Utah, with deadly consequences. This latest car accident, which ended with four people dead and four more in the St.Mary’s Hospital of Grand Junction, Colorado, is by no means the first time that human smuggling has led to death, as overcrowded vans are prone to fatal accidents. Examples of traffic accidents killing multiple illegal immigrants abound, such as the 2007 crash in San Juan county which left left eight people dead and seven more injured. Therefore, it can be seen that Utah, apparently the site of significant humansmuggling operations, needs to make significant changes in order to prevent further tragedies such as this from happening again.
By Nicholas Grabe