At least 71 undocumented immigrants crowded into the back of a U-Haul truck survived a wild ride Wednesday through a Brooks County ranch, thanks to a law enforcement officer's instincts.
Brooks County deputy Mo Saavedra said when the smuggler saw his sheriff's vehicle, he tore through a fence line along FM 285 about 15 miles west of Falfurrias.
"When the U-Haul was going through the field, they lifted up the back hatch and people started jumping out," Saavedra said. "There was too many of them. Not all of them got out." But Saavedra said when it was over, at least 10 others, probably including the smuggler, escaped into the brush, prompting an air and ground search by U.S. Border Patrol.
All were taken into federal custody.
Saavedra said he first saw a white Expedition parked by the side of the road with the flashers on.
The veteran deputy said the driver probably was the spotter, alerting the group that was out of sight to quickly board the U-Haul.
Saavedra said when they saw him, the U-Haul turned around.
"That's what caught my eye, when they turned around in the middle of the road. They stopped traffic and they almost got hit by traffic," Saavedra said.
That's when the smuggler took off through the field, but with Saavedra in pursuit.
When it ended, Saavedra said a woman who had been packed in the back of the truck, had been overcome by the lack of ventilation.
"She was totally dehydrated and exhausted," he said.