Search continues after young girl found deceased west of Lukeville

Contributed Article/Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection

LUKEVILLE – A deceased child, believed to be a 7-year-old citizen of India, was discovered 17 miles west of Lukeville by U.S. Border Patrol Wednesday morning.

The girl had reportedly been traveling with four others dropped near the international boundary by human smugglers who ordered the group to cross in the dangerous and austere location.

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents learned this information after encountering two adult women from India, who explained how they had come to the United States, and that three others, a woman and two children, had become separated from them hours earlier.

Agents took the two women into custody and began searching the area north of the international border in remote terrain, seven miles west of Quitobaquito Springs, for the missing persons. Within hours, they discovered the little girl’s remains, which were recovered by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

Aircraft and helicopters from National Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations were called out to expand the search, while additional agents from Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue Unit, the Ajo Border Patrol Station, and personnel from the Bureau of Land Management combed the area on foot.

Late Wednesday night, U.S. Border Patrol agents located footprints indicating the remaining two members of the group crossed back into Mexico. CBP and Mexican authorities continue to search the area for any associated persons. At this time, no additional members of the group have been located on either side of the border.

One mile south of the where the girl’s body was found, Mexico’s Highway 2 runs parallel to the border, a few hundred yards south of the international boundary. On the U.S. side of the border, this remote area is a rugged desert wilderness with few backcountry roads and little to no resources.

According to the National Weather Service, the high temperature in the area Wednesday was approximately 108 degrees.

“Our sympathies are with this little girl and her family,” said Tucson Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal. “This is a senseless death driven by cartels who are profiting from putting lives at risk.”

U.S. Border Patrol encourages those in distress to dial 911, or activate a rescue beacon. Individuals can report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol and remain anonymous by calling 1-877-872-7435 toll free. Reporting illicit activity could result in saving someone’s life.

UPDATE – Two missing Indian nationals were located by U.S. Border Patrol late Thursday night when they crossed the border back into the United States and surrendered to agents. The mother and her 8-year-old daughter were transported to a local hospital for treatment for dehydration.