GILA BEND, Ariz. -- Two Border Patrol agents rushing to help capture some suspected illegal immigrants were killed Thursday when their SUV entered a marked railroad crossing and was struck by a freight train.
The crash happened in a rural farming area near Interstate 8 and the town of Gila Bend, about 85 miles southwest of Phoenix.
Yuma Border Patrol sector spokesman Agent Kenneth Quillin said the agents were trying to position themselves on a road north of some other agents who were trying to capture a group of suspected illegal immigrants.
The suspects were on foot, and none of them have been arrested, Quillin said. "We do see groups on a regular basis traveling through this area."
The crash happened at a railroad crossing that is marked but does not have railroad crossing arms, he said.
The Union Pacific train with 75 cars was doing about 62 mph when it hit the SUV, pushing it a mile down the tracks. TV news footage from the scene showed the mangled black vehicle in front of the train's engine. Tarps were placed over some of the wreckage.
Before the collision, the train engineers saw the SUV on the access road and blew the train's horn, Maricopa County Sheriff's Lt. Aaron Douglas said.
The agents' names were withheld pending notification of family. They were assigned to the Yuma sector, which has close to 1,000 agents.
George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said one of the agents who died recently transferred to the sector from El Centro, Calif.
He said he did not yet know all the specifics of the crash, but said the men died in the line of duty.
"It's sad anytime you lose somebody in our organization," McCubbin said.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne also expressed sadness over the deaths.
"This tragedy is a reminder to all of us that whether they are facing down a criminal suspect with a weapon, or patrolling the highways and deserts, these law enforcement professionals encounter life-threatening dangers every day," Horne said in a statement. "I join all Arizonans in mourning the deaths of these agents," Horne said.