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Eight dead, seven hurt in Four Corners crash

SHARE Eight dead, seven hurt in Four Corners crash

Eight people were killed and seven others injured after a Chevrolet Suburban rolled this morning in Utah's Four Corners area.

The Utah Highway Patrol said the crash happened around 3:30 a.m. on State Road 191 in San Juan County. Troopers said 15 people were traveling inside a Chevrolet Suburban, headed northbound.

"It went off the road on the right, came back up, went off again, came back up and started to roll," UHP Trooper Randall Akers said this morning.

Pictures provided to the Deseret Morning News by the UHP show a badly mangled SUV with broken windows and its top smashed. UHP Lt. Todd Peterson said each time the vehicle rolled, it ejected more people.

"It was pretty horrific," he said in an interview this afternoon.

Six people were killed at the scene. Two more died at hospitals this morning. The survivors were taken to hospitals in Monticello, Utah; Farmington and Shiprock, N.M.; and Grand Junction, Colo.

Troopers said the driver — who was the only one wearing a seat belt — fled the scene. Officials said he suffered an arm injury in the accident. Peterson said a San Juan County Sheriff's deputy and a UHP trooper pursued the man for several hours, following his tracks in the desert.

"We found him after about seven or eight miles," Peterson said. "They followed this guy in the desert and caught up to him and he surrendered without incident."

The man, whom officials identified as 30-year-old Rigorberto-Salas Lopez, was taken into custody on investigation of fleeing the scene of an accident. Agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement were in Monticello this afternoon questioning the man.

"From what we've heard initially from the people who were there, it does appear it was related to some type of human smuggling activity," said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

Troopers said they could not find identification on any of the people in the vehicle.

Kice said she anticipates they will pursue an investigation into human smuggling.

"Under current sentencing laws, if someone is engaged in human smuggling and the aliens sustained injury or death, there are very serious sentencing penalties — including death," Kice said.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com