Video: Border crossers trapped in tunnel

updated 10/10/2006 4:10:07 PM ET 2006-10-10T20:10:07

Five people trying to sneak into the United States from Mexico became trapped in a narrow tunnel and had to be rescued Tuesday after the largest of them, a nearly 200-pound man, got stuck trying to climb out through a storm drain, authorities said.

Firefighters used jackhammers at the city’s border with Tijuana to widen the opening and free the man, who had become stuck at the hips, said James Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Then they pulled out the four others who had become trapped behind him in the drainage tunnel.

All appeared to be uninjured, though one woman was taken to a hospital because she appeared to have become sick from the stuffy air, authorities said.

Seven more people who were behind that group managed to crawl back into Mexico through the tunnel, Jacques said.

Asked why one of the biggest members of the party had been put near the front of the line, Jacques said, “I’d tell you that was poor planning.”

It took about two hours to free the five people, all in their 20s, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Two other people who crawled out of the tunnel ahead of the larger man were caught in an industrial section of San Diego just north of the fences that separate the U.S. from Mexico.
Jacques said a tragedy easily could have occurred in the tunnel.

The tunnel, only about 2 feet across, is part of San Diego’s storm drainage system. Jacques said it appeared someone on the Mexican side dug a tunnel to reach the U.S. system.

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