ENCINO, Texas (Border Report) — Several crosses, flowers, candles, shoes and a Mexican flag have been put at the spot where 10 migrants died and 21 were injured in a rollover crash last month in rural Brooks County, Texas.
Purple, blue, pink, yellow and white flowers are offset by a pair of eerie black boots, a pink toothbrush and black ribbons tied to a stop sign that the driver of the white van sped past while carrying 31 adults from Mexico and Central America on Aug. 4, according to law enforcement.
The driver, Fernando Garcia Elias, 27, of Mexico, died along with nine other adults in the crash — one of the worst in the county’s history, Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez told Border Report.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says a preliminary investigation has found the driver was traveling “at an unsafe speed” when he veered off the road, striking a metal utility pole and stop sign.
Olga Marina Portillo, 47, of Honduras was the only woman to die in the accident. DPS has identified the others who died as:
- Carlos Edulfo Santos Ramirez, 19, of Honduras
- Mario Diaz Hernandez, 36, of Honduras
- Rolando Rivera Hernandez, 56, of Mexico
- Jorge Alfredo Barralanga Herrera, 24, of Honduras
- Uriel Perez Villafana, 17, of Mexico
- Jenri Alexand Isidro Escalante, 23, of Guatemala
- Kleiver Aron Escalante Velasquez, 28, of Guatemala
The identity of one male passenger is still pending, DPS officials told Border Report on Wednesday.
The crash occurred 10 miles south of the largest Border Patrol checkpoint on the Southwest border. Human smugglers try to evade the checkpoint by dropping off migrants miles south and forcing them to walk north through the dangerous brush.
Most migrants are headed to Houston and the smugglers, called coyotes, pick up those who make it through the brush about 20 miles north and east. Many are left in rural desolate areas like this tiny town of Encino, and it can take three days for them to make it north of the checkpoint.
Many don’t make it and die from dehydration, snake bites or other injuries as they try to traverse the sandy soil and thick brush full of prickly pear cactus about 65 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
An estimated 85 migrants have died, so far this year in Brooks County, local law enforcement officials told Border Report.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.