Arizona residents and Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S. illegally were among eight people killed earlier this week in a head-on crash on a highway near the historic prison town of Florence, authorities said Friday.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety released the names of some of the people who died in the late Wednesday collision on State Route 79 involving an SUV and a Buick about 120 miles (193 kilometers) north of the Mexico border.
Officials have not said whether the SUV was being used for a smuggling operation, but court records show the driver and passenger of the vehicle were previously convicted of immigrant smuggling charges.
Federal court records show 45-year-old Rodney Palimo pleaded guilty in March 2008 to a misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting an alien. He was initially charged with a felony count of transporting an immigrant in the U.S. without permission.
His passenger, 43-year-old Kathleen Palimo, in 2004 pleaded guilty to a felony count of transporting aliens in the county illegally.
The Palimos, from Sells, both died in the crash along with four of the seven Guatemalan men in the vehicle.
Another three Guatemalan men were injured. Their conditions were not immediately known.
Oscar Padilla Lam, the consul general at Guatemala’s consulate in Phoenix, was unavailable Friday morning and did not immediately return a request from The Associated Press for more information about the accident.
A similar request placed to the Guatemalan consulate in Tucson also was not immediately returned.
Also killed in the accident were the driver of the Buick, 41-year-old Angel Meza, of Eloy, and his passenger, 33-year-old Nicole Vidal.
Authorities have said the Buick veered into the opposite lane of traffic, striking the SUV.
Arizona has been the scene of a number of fatal crashes involving immigrants who were being smuggled, including one near the border nearly a decade ago in which 10 people died after an SUV rolled over on a highway.
Large numbers of Central American migrants, the majority of them Guatemalans, in recent months have been regularly turning up in remote desert areas of Arizona near the border with Mexico.
U.S. Border Patrol agents on Sept. 16 found two groups of Central American migrants in the desert within hours of each other west of the U.S. port of entry in Lukeville. Together, those two groups comprised 193 people, including 11 unaccompanied children.
Other large groups of Central Americans were found in the same general area on Sept. 1 and Aug. 17.
Source: The Associated Press