A 26-year-old off-duty Border Patrol agent died in a car collision Friday afternoon southeast of El Centro.
Agent Francisco Puga with the El Centro Station died at the scene of the collision at the intersection of Bowker and McCabe roads while on his way to work, according to officials with the local Border Patrol union.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the collision, which also sent a woman to El Centro Regional Medical Center with moderate injuries that were not disclosed by the Highway Patrol.
The Highway Patrol news release did not name Puga as the man who died, but rather referred to that person as a 26-year-old Calexico resident driving a 2005 Kia Rio. The driver of the other vehicle, a 2005 Ford Expedition, was also not named, but described as a 43-year-old Mexicali woman.
While not many details of the accident were available by press time, the Highway Patrol news release stated the Kia Rio was traveling north on Bowker Road approaching the stop sign at McCabe Road.
The Ford Explorer was traveling westbound on McCabe Road approaching the intersection.
The two vehicles collided, with the front of the Ford Explorer hitting the right side of the Kia Rio, causing both vehicles to travel in a northwesterly direction and overturn, according to the news release. The man driving the Kia Rio, who was reportedly not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected and suffered fatal injuries. He died on scene.
The collision remains under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
Into the evening, Border Patrol agents from the El Centro Sector were being told about the collision and Puga’s death. Agents were told “that we lost one of our brothers, that he’s too young to be taken from us, that he was coming to work,” said Lombardo Amaya, union president of National Border Patrol Council Local 2554, which oversees the El Centro Sector.
“We feel really sad for his wife, for his sister, for his mother, for his brother,” Amaya said.
Puga has been with the Border Patrol for about seven years, and at the time of the collision he was going to work to fulfill his duties, Amaya said. Agents leave their house every day knowing that they may not come home, that they may die fighting criminals. It’s not thought so much that they are going to die in vehicle accidents, Amaya added.
Amaya didn’t know Puga personally, but said he had seen Puga around during training and going to work. However, in a situation like this, Border Patrol is one family.
Puga paid the ultimate sacrifice, he added. Puga and his family are in their prayers.
The stretch of road has its own history, with a number of high-profile collisions in the area. One of them was further down Bowker Road at Heber Road where an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent failed to stop at the stop sign, and then crashed into another vehicle, killing three people in 2009. At that same intersection of Bowker and Heber roads, a Holtville woman’s car became fully submerged in a canal after a traffic collision with a plain-clothes Border Patrol agent in June 2012. There have been a number of other accidents in the area, including a school bus vs. two other vehicles at the intersection of Heber and Barbara Worth roads less than four miles away earlier this month.
The intersection of Bowker and McCabe roads, which currently only has stop signs on Bowker Road, has been considered for a four-way stop, according to past reports. However, information about progress on that stop sign has not since been reported.
The intersection is set to be closed today by the Imperial County Public Works Department because of the traffic accident. The California Highway Patrol had asked that the road be closed for the investigation, said county Public Works Deputy Director of Public Works Engineering John Gay.
No detours will be posted.
Digital Media News Editor Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.