SAN DIEGO -- All ten passengers of a pickup that led Border Patrol on a high speed chase Thursday were thrown from the truck when it flipped over on Interstate 8 in Boulevard, killing three people and injuring eight others.
The driver -- a US citizen and the only person wearing a seatbelt in the truck -- was in jail Friday, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Officials said Luis Alberto Virgen, a 21-year-old who currently lives in Tijuana, faces three counts of manslaughter.
The fatal crash happened shortly after 4:30 p.m. Thursday on the westbound side of I-8 near Crestwood Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Travis Garrow said.
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Border Patrol agents attempted to stop a white Chevrolet Silverado near the U.S.-Mexico border in eastern San Diego County, but the driver of the pickup failed to stop, Garrow said.
The Chevrolet driver led agents on a high-speed chase on I-8 westbound before Border Patrol agents deployed a spike strip east of Crestwood Road that caused the driver to lose control of the pickup, Garrow said.
The pickup veered off the right side of the highway, went up a dirt embankment, became airborne, rolled down the embankment back onto I-8 westbound and came to a rest on its left side in the left lane of the highway.
“Our core mission is to make sure nothing enters the U.S. illegally. It’s never good when people get hurt – certainly when people die. That is never our intention. If we can avoid that – we do everything in our power to do so," said Border Patrol Agent William Rogers.
The pickup had 11 occupants and the driver was the only person wearing a seatbelt, Garrow said, adding that investigators believe two people were in the cab of the truck and the rest were lying in the bed of the pickup.
All 10 passengers were unrestrained at the time of the crash and were thrown from the pickup, Garrow said.
Three people were pronounced dead at the scene and eight people were transported to local hospitals with moderate to major injuries, Garrow said.
No details about the victims were immediately available.
The Chevrolet driver was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents and was being treated for his injuries at a local hospital, Garrow said.
Intoxication was not believed to have been a factor in the crash, Garrow said.