ELOY, AZ — The Arizona Department of Public Safety along with Homeland Security is investigating a potential case of human smuggling after three people died and multiple others were injured in a crash on Interstate 10 near Eloy.
It started before 9 a.m. Thursday morning when a trooper attempted to make a traffic stop on a Toyota SUV driving erratically on the I -10 westbound near Casa Grande milepost 214 .
The SUV immediately fled from the trooper but lost control and flipped the vehicle across the median into eastbound traffic where it was struck by a tractor-trailer head on. Another car was also hit.
*CLOSURE UPDATE*— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) April 21, 2022
I-10 WB is now closed at milepost 219 due to the crash at milepost 214.
The EB lanes remain closed at this time as well.
WB traffic is exiting at milepost 219 and can re-enter at 211 via the Frontage Road.
EB traffic must exit at 211 and can re-enter at 219. pic.twitter.com/fKw6NIeSdV
Multiple people in the SUV were thrown from the vehicle, killing three. They have since been identified as Alexis Miguel Fuentes De La Cruz, 22, Omar Ortiz-Ramirez, 36, and Raúl Carranza-Alonso, 39, of Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security was called in to assist and investigate "attempted human smuggling activity."
Public safety officials say they are seeing more teen drivers being coerced into human smuggling. Officials say the driver of the SUV was identified as 18-year-old Kevin Avila. He was booked into jail on homicide, endangerment, and aggravated assault charges.
"One thing that we are seeing a lot of is a lot of younger drivers ranging from the age of 14 to just over 18 to 20, young drivers that are being propositioned to transport vehicles or people," Major Brant Benham with DPS.
One victim from the SUV remains hospitalized as of April 29. Four victims in the SUV were treated and released from hospitals. The tractor-trailer driver and the box truck driver were also treated and released from hospitals.