Witnesses describe horrifying crash that left 8 dead outside a Texas shelter housing migrants

Witnesses describe horrifying crash that left 8 dead outside a Texas shelter housing migrants

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of the crash’s aftermath.

(CNN) — As the death toll from the Texas crash rises to eight, witnesses are describing the horrifying moment a driver plowed into people Sunday near a shelter in Brownsville.

Several immigrants were among those killed when a Land Rover hit a group waiting at a bus stop across the street from the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a non-profit homeless shelter that has been helping house migrants in the border town, authorities say.

“We have never seen something like this,” Victor Maldonado, director of the Ozanam Center, told CNN affiliate KRGV.

Police say they are still investigating the violent crash, which was captured on surveillance video. The footage shows a Range Rover driving at a very high rate of speed and hitting a curb about 30 feet from where the migrants were sitting before the driver appears to lose control, Maldonado told CNN on Sunday.

The driver — identified only as a Hispanic man — received medical care and was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving, according to Brownsville police spokesperson Martin Sandoval, adding that additional charges are likely.

There were about 20 to 25 migrants sitting on the curb at around 8:30 a.m. when police reported receiving reports of the crash, according to the shelter’s director. The migrants were from Venezuela and had arrived at the shelter just days ago, Maldonado said.

The shelter director and a staff member ran out to the street to find a very graphic scene, with body parts spread across the area, Maldonado told CNN.

“I’ve got a staff (member) who is in shock,” Maldonado said, adding that he too was in shock.

Another witness described the vehicle overturning as it hit the crowd.

“I could hear the car hitting people and the thumping and I saw how the SUV rolled over when he hit them,” witness Jose Del Transito Rubio Armijo told KRGV in Spanish.

Witnesses have also described seeing the driver ignore a red light before driving up on a curb and running over people at the bus stop, according to Sandoval.

The FBI is assisting local police with the investigation and Border Patrol is working to confirm the identities of the victims, authorities said.

Police are set to provide more information about the crash during a Monday morning news conference.

Community members marked a solemn Sunday mass at the Ozanam Center Sunday evening, just hours after the deadly crash across the street.

“As we await a fuller report from law enforcement authorities, let us stop for a moment to mourn these losses of life and to pray. Pray for the victims, pray for the families and loved ones, and pray for our community,” Bishop Daniel Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville said in a statement.

“We must resist the corrosive tendency to devalue the lives of immigrants, the poor, and the vulnerable. Let us take extra steps as a local community to care for and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable,” Flores said.

Police say driver isn’t cooperating

After the crash, witnesses at the scene detained the driver until officers arrived, Sandoval said.

The driver has been uncooperative and has been giving authorities different names, Sandoval said. Investigators must fingerprint the driver to get his identifying details — which takes longer, he added.

A blood sample was also taken from the driver and a toxicology test will be ordered, according to Sandoval, and it’s unclear how long the results will take.

At the scene of the fatal crash Sunday, investigators were examining the mangled Range Rover, which could be seen with its windshield shattered and its driver-side door and hood damaged.

The Ozanam shelter has been housing immigrants while they wait for more permanent housing, according to Sandoval.

CNN interviewed migrants staying at the Ozanam Center in December — at the time the center’s director said migrants from all over the world were starting to stay at his shelter and that he was seeing an uptick in stays.

Located on the southern tip of Texas, Brownsville’s population is nearly 95% Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2022 census.

The city recently declared a state of emergency after receiving an influx of thousands of migrants, many from Venezuela, in the past several weeks, CNN previously reported.

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