PINE VALLEY, Calif. — A car that was stopped after a pursuit on a mountainous highway near San Diego exploded and burned Thursday, killing the driver and injuring a Border Patrol agent, authorities said.
There is no evidence that the driver was involved in smuggling migrants, drugs or weapons, said Border Patrol spokesman Steven Pitts.
The pursuit began around midnight on Interstate 8 near a Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley, about 45 miles east of San Diego. Pitts said it was unclear if the driver was trying to avoid the checkpoint as he headed west in eastbound lanes.
The driver exited to a state highway that runs parallel to Interstate 8, where Border Patrol agents used spike strips to puncture the car's tires, Pitts said. The driver was seen reaching for the glove compartment shortly before the explosion.
The Border Patrol agent was walking toward the car when it exploded and suffered minor burns, Pitts said.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department was leading the investigation into what caused the explosion. Calls were referred to Lt. Larry Nesbit, who did not immediately respond to a phone message.
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About 10 years ago, smugglers often drove the wrong way on Interstate 8 to avoid the checkpoint — typically at night with headlights off — alarming motorists as they returned home to their remote mountain communities. The number of wrong-way drivers dropped sharply after the Border Patrol installed guard rails and cameras.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press