Border agents killed in crash
Border agents killed in crash
By Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter
Article Launched: 03/17/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT
LAS CRUCES â€” Two U.S. Border Patrol agents were killed Thursday night while on duty after their patrol vehicle rolled several times on a scarcely traveled highway in southwest New Mexico.
The single-vehicle crash occurred on N.M. Highway 338 near Cotton City, between Animas and Interstate 10, 20 to 30 miles southwest of Lordsburg in Hidalgo County.
The agents were assigned to the Border Patrol's Lordsburg station. Their names were not released pending family notification.
But news of the tragedy spread among friends who described one of the men, a 24-year-old brand-new agent from Pennsylvania, as smart, likable and dedicated to his job.
"That's a guy that everybody can't help but get along with. He really enjoyed his job," Brian Collier, a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, said of his late friend.
Another friend, John Frisco of Corpus Christi, said the agent was "very athletic, very intelligent."
"On the spur of the moment, he decided he wanted to be a Border Patrol agent. It's something that's a new adventure," Frisco said. "He just flew to El Paso. He told his mom he was going to do it, but he didn't tell any of his buddies."
Collier and Frisco both said their friend started patrolling in November and wanted to be part of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue team, known as BORSTAR.
The two men are the first Border Patrol agents to die in the line of duty in the El Paso sector since 1999, when Rene Garza Jr. died of cardiac arrest, according to Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier.
The El Paso sector is patrolled by about 1,860 agents and includes all of New Mexico and two counties in west Texas. Garza was part of the horse patrol unit and also stationed in Lordsburg.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of the two fine young men, who were such valued, selfless and vibrant members of our team," acting El Paso Border Patrol sector Chief Paul Beeson in a statement. "This is a stark reminder of the risks our front line employees accept each day as they work to secure our nation."
Sgt. Mark Thomas of the New Mexico State Police's Lordsburg office said the accident occurred about 9 p.m.
Thomas said the ongoing investigation has determined that the agents were traveling northbound when the vehicle drifted into the southbound lanes and onto the shoulder when the driver apparently overcorrected.
The vehicle rolled several times, Thomas said, ejecting the driver. The Jaws of Life were used to remove the passenger who became trapped inside the vehicle.
The Border Patrol said Friday afternoon that the driver died at Lordsburg Municipal Airport, where he was to be airlifted to a hospital. The passenger was transported to Thomason Hospital in El Paso, where he died Friday morning.
Thomas said the cause of the accident was still unknown but speed and driver inattention were believed to be factors.
Thomas added that N.M. Highway 338 was not a heavily traveled road.
"There's not a lot going on down there," Thomas said. "There's a school, some ranches, a smuggling route, that's it."
Flags at El Paso sector Border Patrol facilities were lowered to half-staff in honor of the agents.