BROWNSVILLE (Texas) (AP). Two days after an SUV slammed a group of people waiting at a Brownsville stop bus, there is still little information about the victims. This leaves relatives searching for their loved ones, and begging for any information.
The authorities say that the driver of the car, George Alvarez, 34, from Brownsville, had lost control when he ran a red signal on Sunday morning. However, they have not ruled it out that the driver may have deliberately plowed his vehicle into a stop sign outside the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center. This center is a refuge and hub for migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.
18 people were injured, 10 of them critically.
The victims' fingerprints were taken. According to Brownsville Police, all were men and some were Venezuelans, but their identities are still unknown.
The police department said that it has over 120 names on a list from people wanting to know if they have relatives among the victims. The list includes dozens of photos, as well as contact information provided by families who are desperate to avoid a bad phone call.
"I know everyone wants to know the name," said Martin Sandoval as a spokesperson for the department.
Mileidy González, 23, has found a relative who was missing. Her 45-year old uncle Juan Carlos Paredes, had been injured in the accident. Mileidy Gonzalez, 23, learned about the crash from news reports. A migrant staying at the shelter also told her. Family members identified Paredes through videos.
One of the relatives had to call multiple hospitals before she found her uncle. He was said to be in a delicate condition and that they could not communicate with him directly.
His leg, his back and part of his clavicle. Gonzalez told me by phone that they are waiting for specialists to determine if he requires surgery.
Hector David Medina Mediero, 24, a Venezuelan who worked at the Ozanam shelter as a hairdresser is also on the list. His mother was outside the police station on Tuesday, waiting for the worst.
My heart tells.
Sandoval says that the police will use this list to contact families after the confirmation process has been completed. However, the circumstances surrounding the accident have caused delays. The fact that some victims were not wearing official identification complicates the situation.
He said that 'how the accident happened there were many documents which flew all over'. It's difficult to match documents to people in this state, especially if they are deceased.
Alvarez has been charged by eight counts of manslaughter, and ten counts of aggravated attack with a deadly weapons. Bail was set at $3.6 Million. Investigators are trying to determine whether the crash was intentional.
Jesus Ferrer, 32 was lining up at a bus stop with a group migrants, which included some friends, on Sunday when they noticed a vehicle driving towards them.
We spotted a gray SUV coming full speed. He said that the SUV came towards us and then veered in our direction.
Ferrer reported that the driver fled after the incident, but was stopped by the group.
The man, he said, was angry and told the people who arrested him to "Go back to your own country."
Luis Herrera (36), another witness, reported that the driver shouted Spanish-language insults commonly used in Mexico, as he raced towards the crowd.
Herrera remembered him saying, "You are invading me property."
Herrera's wrist was injured when he was thrown aside by the vehicle, but he was evaluated medically and was cleared of any major injuries.
He said, 'Physically, I'm fine. But psychologically, I'm not OK after everything that has happened.'
Felix Sauceda, the chief of police in Washington state, said that the police did not confirm that witnesses had reported that a driver cursed at them.
Brownsville Police said on Tuesday that they knew of a toxicology report from a hospital indicating Alvarez was in possession of cocaine, marijuana, and Benzodiazepines.
Sandoval says the report can't be used to determine if the driver was legally under the influence of drugs at the time. Drugs can stay in the system for several days or even weeks.
Sandoval said that the police are awaiting separate toxicology reports to see if Alvarez has certain amounts of drugs in his body.
According to Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley, those who were hit by the vehicle waited for a bus to take them to downtown Brownsville, after having spent the night in the shelter. The only overnight shelter in the city, it receives migrants who are held by federal authorities.
Brownsville, Texas has seen a rise in Venezuelan migrants during the past two weeks. The reasons are still unclear. This led city officials to extend an emergency declaration for as long as they could.
Since mid-April, approximately 30,000 migrants have entered the U.S., mainly from Venezuela. This compares to 1,700 Border Patrol agents who encountered migrants in the first two week of April.