Five bodies were found Saturday in a burned-out vehicle in the southern Arizona desert, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said.
Border Patrol officers originally spotted the SUV early Saturday and tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver took off and disappeared, Babeu said. Aided by daylight, authorities later in the day were able to find tracks near where the vehicle was intially spotted, which led officers to the burned-out Ford Explorer.
Authorities are investigating whether the bodies found are linked to violence by Mexican drug cartels. The incident took place in the Vekol Valley, a hotbed of drug- and human-smuggling activity, according to Babeu, who said his department conducted 350 high-speed chases in the area last year in an effort to curb such crime.
One of the bodies was found in the second row of the SUV, while the others were in the cargo area of the vehicle. A second set of automobile tracks was also found at the scene, according to Babeu.
A cause of death for the victims, who have not been identified, is not yet known.