2 Border Patrol agents killed in Arizona crash - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

2 Border Patrol agents killed in Arizona crash

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GILA BEND, Ariz. (AP) — Two Border Patrol agents rushing to help capture some suspected illegal immigrants were killed Thursday when their SUV entered a marked railroad crossing and was struck by a freight train.

The crash happened in a rural farming area near Interstate 8 and the town of Gila Bend, about 85 miles southwest of Phoenix.

The agents — Eduardo Rojas Jr. and Hector Clark — were trying to position themselves on a road north of some other agents who were trying to capture a group of suspected illegal immigrants, said agent Kenneth Quillin, spokesman for the Border Patrol's Yuma sector.

The suspects were on foot, and none of them have been arrested, Quillin said. "We do see groups (of illegal immigrants) on a regular basis traveling through this area."

The crash happened at a railroad crossing that is marked but does not have railroad crossing arms, he said.

The Union Pacific train with 75 cars was going about 62 mph when it hit the SUV, pushing it about a half-mile down the tracks.

Before the collision, the train engineers saw the SUV on the access road and blew the train's horn, said Detective Aaron Douglas of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which along with the FBI is investigating the deaths.

Union Pacific said in a statement that its crew had no warning that the SUV would turn in front of the train. It did not elaborate.

Hours after the crash, the mangled black vehicle sat on the tracks in front of the train's engine as several agents and other law enforcement officers gathered at the scene and combed the area. Tarps were placed over some of the wreckage.

Rojas and Clark were assigned to the Yuma sector, which has close to 1,000 agents.

Clark, who was 39 years old and a native of Yuma, had been an agent since August 2001. The 35-year-old Rojas was originally from El Paso, Texas, and had been an agent since April 2000.

Each agent is survived by a wife and two children.

"It's sad anytime you lose somebody in our organization," said George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement saying, "The entire DHS family expresses our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of these agents."

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne also expressed sadness over the loss, saying he joins all Arizonans in mourning the deaths.

"This tragedy is a reminder to all of us that whether they are facing down a criminal suspect with a weapon, or patrolling the highways and deserts, these law enforcement professionals encounter life-threatening dangers every day," Horne said in a statement.


Associated Press writers Mark Carlson and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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