(Gila Bend, Arizona – May 12, 2011)
Two Yuma, AZ-based Border Patrol agents died about 6:30 A.M. this morning when their black SUV was struck by a Union Pacific freight train at an unguarded, dangerous railroad crossing. The agents were pursuing a group of alleged illegal immigrants in this Maricopa County community 75 miles southwest of Phoenix.
The crossing, which lacked any form of automatic protection (lights, bells or gates) was one that Border Patrol Spokesman Kenneth Quillin said agents cross the tracks at that location “quite often.” The road across the tracks was off of Paloma Road, which parallels I-8, and was less than a mile from an elementary school. The agents in the unmarked SUV were working with another group of USBP agents in pursuit of a group of undocumented aliens when The Union Pacific train hauling 75 freight cars and travelling a little more than 60 miles per hour demolished their vehicle, killing both instantly.
Names of the victims are yet to be released pending notification of their families. Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose officers were first on the scene, said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation would be taking charge of the investigation, but that the MCSO will continue to assist, as will officers of the Arizona Dept. of public safety.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in a statement issued after the tragedy that “These agents were pursuing suspected drug traffickers at the time of the accident and they died doing their job to protect U.S. citizens.”
HERE is a video interview related to the incident