Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Death tally near border up as heat takes a toll

Arizona Daily Star
July 6, 2011
by Brady McCombs

Arizona's searing summer heat has begun to take its annual toll on illegal border crossers.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has handled the bodies of 15 suspected illegal immigrants in the last nine days. Nine bodies were brought to the office June 29-30, a two-day period that followed eight straight days with temperatures of 107 or higher.

The 28 total border deaths registered since June 1 - which include one handled by the Cochise County Medical Examiner's Office - are actually fewer than in any of the previous nine years over the same time period, shows the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database.

During 2010's record-setting year, 33 bodies were recovered from June 1 to July 5. There were 86 bodies recovered in June and July 2010, making it one of the deadliest two-month periods on record.

The last 16 bodies that have arrived at the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office in Tucson this summer remain unidentified.

The most recent to be positively identified was Luis Enrique Martinez Miranda, 26, who was found June 20 about 12 miles south of Interstate 8 in Pinal County, in the northern part of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office handles the bodies of illegal border crossers found in Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.

As has been the case for years, many of the illegal border crossers have been discovered on the Tohono O'odham Nation, which stretches across 75 miles of U.S.-Mexico border southwest of Tucson. The nation's northern boundaries reach into Pinal County, just south of I-8.

Sergio Estrada Tejada, 37, was found about three miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border on the southeastern portion of the Tohono O'odham Nation on June 17. The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be probable hyperthermia.

Despite the recent increase, the border death tally for calendar year 2011 remains well behind last year's pace. The 82 border deaths since Jan. 1 are the fewest at this date since 2003, when there were 79 border deaths through the date, the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows. Through July 5, 2010, there had been 124 bodies recovered.

Since 2001, the bodies of more than 2,100 illegal border crossers have been recovered in Arizona's desert.

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