Teen fleeing DPS kills three in fatal collision

Contributed Photo: Three people from this SUV died during an alleged human smuggling attempt. There were nine occupants in the SUV when it flipped on I-10. 

Driver may have been involved in human smuggling

By Jon Johnson


ELOY – An 18-year-old Phoenix man was arrested and booked into the Pinal County Jail on Friday after leading Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers on a fatal pursuit that ended with the death of three people. 

Kevin Avila, 18, was taken into custody after being released from a Tucson-area hospital where he received medical treatment for injuries he suffered in the collision. Avila was booked into jail on three counts of homicide in the first degree, seven counts of endangerment, and seven counts of aggravated assault. 

Investigators believe Avila was possibly involved in human smuggling when he failed to yield to a DPS trooper while westbound in a Toyota SUV RAV4 on Thursday. According to a news release from the DPS, the trooper attempted to pull Avila over at about 8:38 a.m. for reckless driving. Avila failed to yield to the trooper’s lights and sirens, however, and ended up entering the dirt median and rolling over. The SUV then rolled into oncoming traffic on the eastbound lanes of I-10 and collided head-on with an Amazon delivery tractor-trailer. A box truck also sustained damage in the collision.

“This took place in a matter of seconds,” DPS Sgt. Jesus Gastelum said. “So, moments later after the trooper attempted to stop the vehicle – it was just a matter of moments between the vehicle not stopping and then crossing the median and striking the tractor-trailer.”  

According to the DPS, there were nine occupants in the SUV made to seat five. Two died at the scene; one died at a hospital, and a total of five were airlifted to hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson. 

Photo Courtesy Pinal County Sheriff’s Office: Kevin Avila, 18, was booked into jail on homicide, endangerment, and aggravated assault charges.

Homeland Security Investigations will conduct an investigation of the incident. On Thursday, the HSI released a statement replying that the incident did involve an attempt to smuggle people. The identities of those killed were not immediately released as authorities were working on notifying the next of kin. 

”We are working to confirm the identification of the deceased victims. This is an ongoing process with the Pinal County Medical Examiner and the Mexican Consul’s Office,” DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

The crash initially closed the freeway in both directions. The westbound lanes reopened soon, but the eastbound lanes were closed for an extended period of time due to the crash which impacted traffic for most of the day. 

Contributed Photo: The fatal crash closed the freeway’s eastbound lanes in the area for most of the day.