Crash Victim's Allegedly Smuggled Into Country From Mexico - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/29/03 - Harrison County

Crash Victim's Allegedly Smuggled Into Country From Mexico

Investigators believe the 12 member family was smuggled into the country from Mexico. They were passengers in a Ford Explorer when the tire blew, the car lost control and flipped several times.

Now East Texans are helping this family any way they can.

Monday investigators measured skid marks left from Friday's accident. The accident scene is where the Verdugo family's journey to America ended.

Witnesses say when the Explorer began to flip. Victims one by one were thrown from the car. "...ejected all the passengers except the driver," says Trooper Cedric Gray.

Trooper Gray says the Verdugo's journey began in Mexico. He says they were smuggled into the country to Arizona where they met the driver of the Explorer, Jorge Luna. "Over in Nozoles, Arizona they have a lot of tunnels from Mexico into Arizona. I'm thinking that's the way they got into the country," says Gray.

"Mr. Luna was a mule for a smuggling operation. He met them in Arizona transport them to Palm Beach, Florida," says Gray.

Luna died as well as 6 year old Carina Verdugo. Father Bruce Lincoln of St. Anthony's Catholic church and Phil Jones, pastor of the First Christian church, found a temporary home for the members of the family who have already been released from the hospital.

"This serious tragedy doing the best we can to do as we think Christ would have us do in the family of God," says Jones.

While the Christian community lends it's helping hand, state troopers and the INS continue their investigation.

Five victims are still hospitalized including three children. INS is investigating. One family member has already been detained.

You can make donations to help with food, clothing and funeral costs at the East Texas Professional Credit Union under Carina Verdugo's name. You can call the bank at 903-323-0230.

Amy Tatum reporting.

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