Driver in Arizona crash that killed 8 had smuggling record

PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ) — Court records show the driver and passenger of an SUV involved in a deadly head-on crash that left them and four Guatemalan men dead had been previously convicted of immigrant smuggling charges.

Federal court records show 45-year-old driver Rodney Palimo pleaded guilty in March 2008 to a misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting an alien.

He was initially charged with a felony count of transporting an illegal alien.

SUV passenger Kathleen Palimo, 43, in 2004 pleaded guilty to a felony count of transportation of illegal aliens.

They were both killed in the crash Wednesday that also left four Guatemalan men dead and three injured who had been in the SUV.

The driver and passenger in the car they collided with also died.

Authorities say the car veered into the opposite lane of traffic, striking the SUV. 

Arizona has been the scene of a number of fatal crashes involving immigrants who were being smuggled, including one near the border nearly a decade ago in which 10 people died after an SUV rolled over on a highway.

Some crashes occurred on remote routes being used by smugglers after the government ramped up personnel and surveillance technology at the border.

Smugglers sometimes lost control of vehicles while fleeing Border Patrol agents.

In Texas, five people were killed in June when an SUV carrying a dozen immigrants flipped while fleeing agents.

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