Witnesses describe a horrific crash outside a Texas migrant shelter that left 7 dead
As the death toll in a Texas crash rises to eight, witnesses describe the terrifying moment a driver plowed into people near a Brownsville shelter on Sunday.
Authorities said a Land Rover hit a group waiting at a bus stop outside the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a nonprofit homeless shelter that helps house migrants in the border town, killing several immigrants.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Ozanam Center Director Victor Maldonado told CNN affiliate KRGV.
Police said they are still investigating the alleged assault, which was caught on surveillance video. The footage shows the Range Rover traveling at a high rate of speed and hitting the curb about 30 feet from where the migrants were sitting before the driver lost control, Maldonado told CNN on Sunday.
Brownsville police spokesman Martin Sandoval said the driver, a Hispanic male, was treated only and arrested on suspicion of reckless driving and may face additional charges.
According to the manager of the shelter, about 20-25 migrants were sitting on the sidewalk around 8:30 a.m. when the police received information about the accident. The migrants were from Venezuela and arrived at the shelter a few days ago, Maldonado said.
Maldonado told CNN that a shelter manager and an employee ran down the street to find a very graphic scene with body parts scattered throughout the area.
“One of my employees was shocked,” Maldonado said, adding that he was also shocked.
Another witness said the car overturned.
Witness Jose Del Transito Rubio Armijo told KRGV in Spanish, “I heard the car hitting and hitting people and I saw the SUV overturn when it hit them.”
Witnesses also described the driver running over people at a stop, ignoring a red light before pulling onto the sidewalk, Sandoval reported.
The FBI is assisting local police in the investigation, and Border Patrol is working to confirm the identities of the victims, authorities said.
Police are expected to release more information about the crash at a news conference Monday morning.
Community members celebrated a solemn Sunday Mass at Ozanam Center on Sunday evening, hours after the fatal crash across the street.
“As we await a full report from law enforcement, let’s take a moment to mourn and pray for this death. Pray for the victims, pray for the families and loved ones, and pray for our community,” Bishop Daniel Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville said in a statement.
“We must resist a corrosive trend that devalues the lives of immigrants, the poor and the vulnerable. As a local community, let’s take extra steps to care for and protect each other, especially the most vulnerable,” Flores said.
“After the accident, witnesses at the scene detained the driver until the police arrived,” Sandoval said.
The driver was off duty and gave authorities different names, Sandoval said. Investigators will have to take the driver’s fingerprints to get identification — that will take longer, he added.
Blood samples were also taken from the driver and a toxicology test will be ordered, Sandoval said, and it is unclear how long the results will be.
Investigators examine a wrecked Range Rover at the scene of Sunday’s fatal crash, which can be seen with a smashed windshield and damage to the driver’s side door and hood.
Sandoval said the Ozanam shelter houses immigrants while they wait for permanent housing.
CNN interviewed migrants living at the Ozanam center in December — when the center’s director said migrants from around the world began staying at his shelter and he noticed an increase in occupancy.
Located on the southern edge of Texas, Brownsville’s population is nearly 95% Hispanic or Latino as of the 2022 census.
The city recently declared a state of emergency after receiving an influx of thousands of migrants, many from Venezuela, in recent weeks, CNN previously reported.
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