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5 Migrants Perish Trying to Cross Arizona Desert

Four survive the journey and one is missing after the group runs out of water in 100-degree heat.

August 10, 2004|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — Five illegal immigrants died after running out of water while trekking through a rugged area of southern Arizona's treacherous desert, authorities said Monday.

Two adults and two juveniles survived the journey from Mexico, but wind storms forced authorities to scale back efforts to search for a 10th member of the group.

"Since we have found four people in this group alive there is hope that we still will find this person alive," said Andrea Zortman, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, which covers most of the Arizona-Mexico border.

Daytime temperatures in the remote region where the migrants were found rose well above 100 degrees on Monday.

One survivor, Gerardo Galvez-Ramirez, sought help Sunday morning at a ranch west of Gila Bend, about 75 miles north of the border and 50 miles southwest of Phoenix, said Andy Adame, a Border Patrol spokesman.

Galvez-Ramirez, 27, and a juvenile survivor were in Border Patrol custody Monday. Two others remained hospitalized in stable condition and were expected to survive, Adame said.

Galvez-Ramirez said he left the others Sunday after they had walked about 50 miles through sand and sage brush. They had run out of water -- each had carried only three gallons -- and were exhausted and dehydrated.

"The others in the group had given up hope," Galvez-Ramirez, speaking through an interpreter, told Associated Press in a phone interview from Tucson. "They told me to leave them behind because they thought they were going to die."

The group had taken a bus to the Arizona-Mexico border Wednesday and crossed with a smuggler into the United States west of Lukeville, Galvez-Ramirez said. They carried water, crackers, corn chips and tortillas to sustain them.

More than 115 illegal immigrants have been found dead in the Arizona desert since Oct. 1.

Kat Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the human rights organization Derechos Humanos in Tucson, said smugglers do not warn border crossers about the mostly waterless terrain or the heat.

However, she said the Border Patrol's efforts to tighten enforcement are to blame.

"Whatever tactics that have been employed are not working. It never works," Rodriguez said.

A record 154 immigrants died while crossing into Arizona in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

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