Diana Ramirez ran barefoot from her porch Monday afternoon after hearing the violent collision northwest of Mission and found a destroyed SUV surrounded by victims and body parts at the corner of her yard.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said late Monday that one of its sergeants was involved in the pursuit of a pickup when the crash occurred. The driver was arrested. The statement said three vehicles in addition to the pickup were involved in the crash.
Justice of the Peace Ismael Ochoa said the victims were part of one family: mother, Olga Lidia Morales Cardosa, 35; father, Jose U. Ortiz; and children, Elias Ortiz, 1; Fernanda Valeria Ortiz, 3; Jose Ortiz, 6; and Ricardo Ortiz, whose age was not available.
Ramirez, 42, said the fleeing pickup had hit the SUV as it flew through the intersection. She believed all of those who died were in the SUV. She had seen high-speed chases before, but never with this loss of life, she said.
"It's not worth it because it kills a lot of people," she said in Spanish.
Juan De La Rosa, 36, was repairing a playground kitty-corner across the intersection from Ramirez's house.
"I heard the sirens and then I heard the truck press the gas," he said. "My first instinct was: I hope he doesn't hit nobody."
He saw the pickup plow into the intersection leaving a white Chevrolet Suburban looking like a convertible, but also hitting two other cars.
"I just took off running," De La Rosa said. The first victim he saw was a boy about 2 or 3 years old on the ground covered in dirt in blood. He was conscious, but in shock.
De La Rosa found no other survivors from the Suburban. No one was killed in the other two cars, he said.
The only vehicle in pursuit was a white unmarked Dodge Charger, which De La Rosa said the DPS sergeant was driving. He heard his sirens, but wasn't sure if he had been running his lights.
De La Rosa said it was fortunate schools were not in session because it occurred near the time they would be letting out and there are two less than a half mile from the intersection.
"The officer should have noticed he was in a school zone," he said. "I can't take these images out of my head."
The crash occurred on the same road, a few miles east of where less than a year before, a DPS helicopter joined in the pursuit of another pickup truck. The agency would say later its troopers believed the truck was carrying drugs. But when a DPS sharpshooter aboard the helicopter fired in an attempt to shoot out the truck's tires, he instead killed two Guatemalan immigrants who were among six under a tarp in the truck's bed. The 14-year-old driver was arrested and just last week was arrested again fleeing Border Patrol.
Ramirez said Tuesday that in addition to the pickup's driver who was arrested, she saw other people run from the truck into the citrus grove north of her home. De La Rosa said he heard of two in the pickup.
Smugglers often employ young drivers to move immigrants who have entered the country illegally between stash houses where they stay until they begin the next leg of their journey north. Pursuits of these drivers are regular occurrences in the area.
In April 2012, nine Mexican immigrants died when a van carrying 18 people crashed nearby in Palmview while fleeing Border Patrol.
Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices