Texas driver indicted in deaths of 8 migrants in crash near border city

Sebastian Tovar, 24, of Austin charged with transporting migrants illegally resulting in death

Debris is strewn across a road near the border city of Del Rio, Texas after a collision Monday, March 15, 2021. Eight people in a pickup truck loaded with immigrants were killed when the vehicle collided with an SUV following a police chase, authorities said. (Texas Department of Public Safety via AP)
Debris is strewn across a road near the border city of Del Rio, Texas after a collision Monday, March 15, 2021. Eight people in a pickup truck loaded with immigrants were killed when the vehicle collided with an SUV following a police chase, authorities said. (Texas Department of Public Safety via AP) (Texas Department of Public Safety)

DEL RIO, Texas – A Texas man who drove a pickup truck involved in a deadly head-on crash, killing eight migrants he was carrying, was indicted Wednesday on federal charges.

A federal grand jury in Del Rio, a Texas border city near where the March 15 crash occurred, indicted Sebastian Tovar, 24, of Austin, on a charge of transporting migrants illegally resulting in death. He also faces single counts of transporting migrants illegally and conspiracy to transport migrants illegally, both resulting in serious injury. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in federal prison.

Raymond Meza Jr. of Del Rio, Tovar's attorney, declined comment on the indictment.

The collision happened weeks after one of the deadliest highway crashes involving migrants entering the U.S. without permission and amid rising crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to court documents, Tovar was driving a pickup truck on Farm-to-Market Road 2523 near Del Rio when a state trooper tried to stop him. When Tovar failed to stop, a 50-mile (80-kilometer) chase ensued at speeds exceeding 100 mph (160 kph). Traveling north on U.S. 277, the truck veered into an oncoming lane and collided with another pickup truck head-on.

Border Patrol agents arriving on the scene spotted another pickup truck stopped in traffic. While agents were directing traffic around the crash site, multiple people jumped from the stopped truck and fled on foot. Agents rounded up 12 migrants, four of whom said they were part of a failed human smuggling attempt divided between the stopped truck and the one crashed, according to court documents.

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