Car Blows Up After Border Patrol Chase Near Mexican Border

Driver dies in San Diego fireball, Border Patrol agent airlifted to hospital.

March 15, 2012 — -- The driver has died and a Border Patrol agent has been airlifted to the hospital after a car that was being chased by the Border Patrol near the Mexican border exploded when it was forced to stop.

At about 3 a.m. Thursday morning in eastern San Diego County, Customs and Border Patrol spotted a car with Texas plates driving the wrong way down the highway, according to initial reports. Police sources said that the vehicle blew through a CBP checkpoint and agents gave chase.

Agents used a spike strip to deflate the vehicle's tires, and the driver came to a stop on Old Highway 80, just off Interstate 8 about 10 miles north of the border and 40 miles east of San Diego. When one of the agents approached the car, the driver refused to open the door or the driver's side window.

The agent then attempted to break the window, at which point the vehicle exploded and was engulfed in flames. The agent was knocked to the ground and received lacerations and burns to the face and body. The sole occupant of the vehicle died in the fire.

Authorities have not yet determined what caused the fire, and whether explosives were involved. The San Diego Sheriff's Department bomb and arson team is investigating.

In a statement, a Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson confirmed that a Border Patrol agent stationed in San Diego was recovering from injuries sustained after a vehicle stop and explosion. ""After agents had stopped a car that was reported to have been driving on the wrong side of Interstate 8," said Jenny Burke, "the vehicle ignited while the agent was standing near the driver side door. The driver of the car died at the scene. The agent was transported to the hospital and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries. The San Diego Sheriff's Department is currently investigating the incident, along with support from CBP." The Border Patrol has not released the name of the injured agent.

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