Driver in crash held on smuggling charges
DENVER – The driver of a minivan that careened off Interstate 70 in a snowstorm, leaving four people dead and 10 injured, was jailed Wednesday on suspicion of human smuggling.Jose Francisco Franco-Rodriguez, 23, was being held for investigation of 14 counts of human smuggling, four counts of careless driving resulting in death, 14 counts of failing to give aid and 14 counts of reckless endangerment, Idaho Springs Police Chief Dave Wohlers said.
Investigators said the van went out of control Tuesday afternoon, struck a tree and rolled in Idaho Springs, in the mountains about 20 miles east of Denver.The Colorado State Patrol said slick roads contributed to the crash. The patrol initially said weather did not appear to be a factor.Wohlers said everyone in the van was believed to be a Mexican national but that authorities were still working to identify them.
Three men and a pregnant woman were killed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said. Among the survivors, a woman and four men were in ICE custody Wednesday, and five other passengers were in the hospital.The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
After the crash, the driver ran off but was found two miles away about four hours later, the State Patrol said.He had $329 with him and allegedly told authorities a smuggling organization in Phoenix had given him $400, Rusnok said. The driver said he was due to receive more money for gas when he got to Kansas City, Rusnok said.Human smuggling is a crime under federal law, but this year, state lawmakers passed a bill making it a felony under state law as well.
The snowstorm, which dropped up to 2 feet of snow in the mountains, contributed to at least one and possibly two other traffic deaths.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO