Brownsville, Texas car crash: Witnesses describe horrific crash that killed 7 outside Texas shelter housing migrants

Editor’s note: (This story contains graphic descriptions of the aftermath of the crash.)

(CNN) As the death toll from a crash in Texas rises to eight, witnesses are describing the terrifying moment a driver plowed into people Sunday near a Brownsville shelter.

Several immigrants were among the dead when a Land Rover hit a group waiting at a bus stop across the street from the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a nonprofit homeless shelter that helps house migrants in the border town, authorities said.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Victor Maldonado, director of the Ozanam Center, told CNN affiliate KRGV.

Police say they are still investigating the brutal crash, which was caught on surveillance camera. The footage shows the Range Rover traveling at a very high rate of speed and hitting a curb about 30 feet from where the migrants were sitting before the driver appeared to lose control, Maldonado told CNN on Sunday.

The driver — identified only as Hispanic — was treated and arrested on suspicion of reckless driving, according to Brownsville police spokesman Martin Sandoval, adding that additional charges are possible.

There were about 20 to 25 migrants sitting on the curb around 8:30 a.m. when police said they received reports of the crash, according to the shelter’s director. The migrants are from Venezuela and arrived at the shelter just days ago, Maldonado said.

The shelter’s director and a staff member ran out into the street to find a very graphic scene with body parts scattered around the area, Maldonado told CNN.

“I have a staff (member) who is in shock,” Maldonado said, adding that he, too, is in shock.

Another witness described how the vehicle overturned when it hit the crowd.

“I heard the car hitting people and the thump and I saw the Jeep overturn when it hit them,” witness Jose del Transito Rubio Armijo told KRGV in Spanish.

Witnesses also described seeing the driver run a red light before mounting the curb and running over people at the bus stop, according to Sandoval.

The FBI is assisting local police with the investigation, and Border Patrol is working to confirm the identities of the victims, authorities said.

Police are set to release more information about the crash during a news conference Monday morning.

Officers at the scene on Sunday after a vehicle plowed into a group of people, killing eight.

Community members celebrated a solemn Sunday Mass at the Ozanam Center on Sunday evening, just hours after the deadly crash across the street.

“As we await a more detailed report from law enforcement, let us pause for a moment to mourn these losses of life and pray. Pray for the victims, pray for the families and loved ones, and pray for our community,” Bishop Daniel Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville said in a statement.

“We must resist the corrosive trend of devaluing the lives of immigrants, the poor and the vulnerable. Let’s take extra steps as a local community to care for and protect each other, especially the most vulnerable,” Flores said.

Police say the driver was uncooperative

After the crash, witnesses at the scene detained the driver until officers arrived, Sandoval said.

The driver was uncooperative and gave authorities different names, Sandoval said. Investigators have to fingerprint the driver to get his credentials — which takes more time, he added.

A blood sample was also taken from the driver and a toxicology test will be scheduled, according to Sandoval, although it is unclear how long the results will take.

A wrecked car at the scene of Sunday’s fatal crash.

At the scene of Sunday’s fatal crash, investigators were examining the disfigured Range Rover, which could be seen with a smashed windshield and a damaged driver’s side door and hood.

According to Sandoval, the Ozanam shelter housed immigrants while they waited for more permanent housing.

CNN interviewed migrants staying at the Ozanam center in December — at which time the center’s director said migrants from around the world were starting to stay at his shelter and that he was seeing an uptick in stays.

Located in the southern tip of Texas, Brownsville’s population is nearly 95% Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2022 census.

The city recently declared a state of emergency after receiving an influx of thousands of migrants, many from Venezuela, in the past few weeks, CNN previously reported.

CNN’s Zoe Sottile and Gloria Pazmino contributed to this report.

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