“What makes this one unique is that the terrain in Yuma is very hard… the sand is very loose and most end up caving. So the fact that the material was very well constructed and that there was ventilation, water, a rail system with walls, roof, floor, electricity, made this one kind of tunnel all in. unique fact, ”said Angel Ortiz, the assistant special agent for internal security (HSI) investigations at Yuma. HSI is a division of US Immigration and Customs.
“It appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in US history, and certainly the most sophisticated that I have seen in my career,” said Carl E Landrum, Acting Chief Patrol Officer Yuma Sector of the border patrol.
Homeland security investigations began digging around the tunnel in late July after someone reported a sinkhole near the border wall. HSI already had reports of potential tunnel activity in this area, and the agency has started drilling, Ortiz said. A camera was sent 7.6m underground and the tunnel was discovered on Tuesday.
The tunnel was 3 feet (approximately 1 m) wide and 4 feet (1.2 m) high.
Investigators are not sure what the tunnel would have been used for, as it was incomplete. They also don’t know how long it was there, as they don’t know what type of equipment was used to build it. If it was done by hand, it would take several months of construction to get this far, Ortiz said. But if builders were using heavy machinery, it would have taken “potentially a few months, not that long,” Ortiz said.
Smugglers have used tunnels to move drugs and people across the border for decades. Two years ago, authorities in Yuma discovered a sophisticated drug trafficking tunnel that ran from a house in Mexico to an abandoned fast food restaurant in Arizona.
HSI said the tunnel connected Mexico to a disused Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in San Luis, Arizona, about 180 yards north of the border.
Owner Ivan Lopez was arrested in August 2018 after authorities found several packages of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in the back of his truck.
This arrest led to a search of his home and the old restaurant, where officers found a hidden tunnel large enough for people to walk through.
Lopez pleaded guilty to one count of using a tunnel or passage to smuggle controlled substances and was sentenced to seven years in prison, court records show.
HSI continues to investigate the tunnel discovered on Tuesday.