Early Friday morning Utah Highway Patrol Four was alerted about a van that rolled over on Interstate-70 near the Colorado-Utah border.
“There were actually nine occupants in the van,” says Sgt. Todd Royce with UHP. “Four of them were transported to St. Mary's hospital in Grand Junction (Colo.) in critical condition."
Sgt. Royce says one person ran from the scene. The victims appear to be undocumented immigrants.
“It's very unfortunate people have to do that, to use coyotes (smugglers) to get them around the country,” says Tony Yapias a Latino community activist. “So that's pretty sad for the families."
Authorities say human trafficking is common in southern Utah. Interstate-70 is a pipeline for smugglers.
An undocumented immigrant who wants his identity a secret can relate to the victims.
He was smuggled years ago from Mexico. He and seven others laid on top of each other in the back seat of a car after crossing the Mexico-U.S. border.
“You have to tolerate those conditions,” says Antonio. “It's a small price to pay considering all the pain you suffer living in Mexico.”
In similar accidents of the past, authorities blamed it on driver fatigue. Antonio says there's more.
“The drivers are very nervous,” he says. “They'll do drugs and stay up all night driving.”
Yapias says this latest accident is another reason why the U.S. needs immigration reform.
“Things like this wouldn’t be happening if Congress would pass immigration reform,” Yapias says.
The Utah Highway Patrol says the van rolled and did not hit any other cars. The accident took place in Grand County just North of Moab near the Utah/ Colorado border. Eastbound lanes were closed at 7 a.m. as troopers investigated the crash. It was unclear when the lanes were reopen.
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