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Contradicting statements cloud deadly I-19 accident

Contradicting statements cloud deadly I-19 accident

CREATED Mar 4, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 5, 2013

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Serious questions as to what lead up to this weekend's death along I-19. According to the Border Patrol, agents were following a group of undocumented immigrants Sunday night near the Tubac checkpoint, but were not chasing them. DPS, who is heading this investigation, says something different. 

It happened along kilometer post 42. An 18-year-old girl, suspected to be in the country illegally, makes her way towards a hectic freeway. She tries to cross, but is hit. Twice. Killed instantly.

"It's just unfortunate, a young lady looking for a bright future in a new land," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. "It just vanished in a split second."

The accident happened in Estrada's county. He says crossing I-19, the major highway that gets them from one side of the county to another is a likely pattern of travel for illegal immigrants. And it can be dangerous.

"You have people who are not familiar with the area," said Estrada. "It's at night. It's dark. They're moving around and they think it's easy, they think it's safe to cross the freeway. They see the lights. They can't calculate speed or distance."

Arizona's Department of Public Safety, the lead agency in this investigation responded with Border Patrol. In a statement DPS told 9OYS this:

"A female pedestrian was being chased on foot by U.S. Border Patrol, when the pedestrian ran across the (southbound) lanes and was struck."

But Customs and Border Protection told us this:

"At the time of the incident, the group was not being actively pursued by Border Patrol agents."

If it sounds like a contradiction, you'd be right. 9OYS wanted to know was there an active chase or not? We tried getting answers, but Border Patrol referred us to the same statement. DPS also stood by its statement.

For now the contradiction remains. Whether there was a chase or not, Estrada tells us, this just shows how dangerous it can be for all players both immigrant and law enforcement along the border.

"They obviously try to avoid detention and escape the Border Patrol," said Estrada. "They take risks, but they don't understand how dangerous it can be."

This was the second time in five months that a suspected illegal immigrant was struck and killed along I-19. The last time it happened was October 14, 2012. That too involved an apparent attempt to escape arrest by BP agents.