'Stowaways' critically hurt after jump from 18-wheeler

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

JACKSON COUNTY, Texas - A pair of suspected illegal immigrants was critically hurt after jumping from the top of a moving 18-wheeler on Highway 59 in Jackson County.

Sheriff's officials said the pair made the jump just as the truck was exiting the highway in the town of Edna Tuesday night.

"They were desperate to get off," said Sheriff AJ Louderback.

Louderback said the driver of the truck and his wife had no idea a woman, 23, and her niece, 10, had crawled inside the rig's air dam until they heard them banging on the cab of the truck. At that point, the driver's wife dialed 911.

"We're in a truck on 59 and we have some illegals or something up in our cab because they're banging up there," the woman is heard telling a sheriff's dispatcher. "We need a cop to meet us somewhere so we can get them down and arrest them. I guess they're thinking they're cold now … they're banging up there for us to stop and let them down and we won't do it."

The dispatcher is then heard instructing the couple to keep driving until they reached a truck stop off the side of the highway.

Louderback said deputies felt the truck stop would be the safest place for the truck pull over. Louderback said a deputy was following the truck as it began to exit the freeway.

"We observed two persons jump off the top of the cab and hit the ground," said Louderback. "Vehicle is probably moving somewhere between 30 and 40 miles an hour and that's a height about close to 10 foot."

Louderback said the woman suffered traumatic brain injuries and was air lifted to a hospital in Corpus Christi. Louderback said the girl suffered a broken hip and compound fracture of the right leg. The girl was taken by Life Flight helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

Louderback said both are from El Salvador and are believed to be in the country illegally. Sheriff's officials said the pair was trying to make their way from the Valley to New York to be with family.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have also joined the investigation.

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