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Guatemalan migrant injured in Marfa garbage truck accident

The Marfa alley where the accident took place. (Travis Bubenik / Marfa Public Radio)

Marfa’s police chief said the accident happened around 8 a.m. Monday morning in an alley next to the town’s Hotel Saint George.

By Travis Bubenik

A man from Guatemala, who was seeking warmth in a dumpster overnight, was injured in Marfa Monday morning when a garbage truck emptied the dumpster and the truck’s automatic trash compactor crushed one of his legs, Marfa’s police chief said.

Chief Estevan Marquez said the truck’s driver shut off the compactor after hearing a yell and then spotting the man’s face on the truck’s onboard camera.

Marquez himself responded to the incident around 8 a.m., climbing on top of the truck to help the man.

“His legs were trapped, so his left leg was, I believe, broken,” he said. “His right leg, he had a severe laceration.”

Police presumed the 30-year-old man to be an undocumented migrant, after he told authorities he had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in recent days with a group before becoming separated from them at some point.

Marquez said the man also told responders that he had not eaten in three days, which may have factored into why he wasn’t able to escape the dumpster quickly as it began to be emptied into the truck.

The man was “in a lot of pain” after the accident and was taken to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, the police chief said. A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said the man was later flown to El Paso, but his condition was still unclear as of Monday afternoon.

The accident happened in an alleyway in downtown Marfa, right next to the Hotel Saint George.

Marquez said the man could have easily been killed if he had not been spotted.

“You hear about this in bigger cities where this happens, so we’re just happy that the driver was able to stop the machine,” he said.

Greg Davis, the CBP spokesperson, said the man would likely be interviewed by border agents after receiving medical attention.

“For all these situations, life and limb comes first, we’ll worry about the law enforcement aspect later,” he said. “Somebody will interview him and determine if he’s in the country illegally or what his status is.”

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.