March 9, 2022 428 PM
MARFA — Around 8 a.m. on Monday, Marfa first responders were called to the scene of an accident in the alley between the Hotel St. George and Stripes. A garbage disposal truck was making its regular weekly rounds when the driver heard screaming and rushed to stop the automated compactor system. Those gathered at the scene were horrified to find a man inside who had sustained serious injuries to both of his legs.
“The driver could hear screaming but didn’t know where it was coming from,” explained Marfa Police Chief Estevan Marquez. “He was looking at the sides of the vehicle first, but ended up looking into the camera that gives him a visual of what’s going in the back. That’s when he saw the individual’s face.”
Marquez, whose office is steps away from the dumpster involved in the accident, was first on the scene. Despite the fact that the man was in a tremendous amount of pain, he was able to answer basic questions: he had been traveling from Guatemala with a group of other migrants and was somehow separated from them. He had stopped in the alley to rest when the temperature dropped to just above freezing. The man crawled into the dumpster and covered himself in debris to keep warm.
“We could tell just by looking at him that he looked very weak,” Marquez said. “He was telling us he hadn’t eaten in a couple of days either, and that was all he could tell us before he started showing signs of going into shock.”
Around 8:10 a.m., Marfa EMS director Bert Lagarde received a call from dispatch, and he quickly reported to the scene. Lagarde had to climb into the truck to assess the man’s injuries. “It was a very confined space,” Lagarde remembered. “There were three or four firefighters down in there with me, plus the patient.”
The first responders worked quickly to package the patient and carefully lift him up and out of the garbage truck using a litter called a Stokes basket. “We had to package the patient into the basket and safely get him out of the garbage truck onto the roof, then off the roof of the garbage truck and into the ambulance,” Lagarde said. “It took some time.”
The patient was transported to Big Bend Regional Medical Center. The driver of the garbage truck could not be identified by press time. The City of Marfa does not operate its own garbage service, and contracts with Republic Services to empty local dumpsters.
“We’ve had information passed to us [from Border Patrol] that this is not the first time that we’ve had individuals hiding in a dumpster,” Marquez explained. “Luckily, those individuals were able to get out. This individual was suffering from some kind of fatigue. He simply told us he just wasn’t strong enough or fast enough to get out of the dumpster in time.”
The incident required cooperation from City Hall, Marfa PD, Marfa EMS and the Marfa Fire Department, alongside other individuals who helped that morning with patient transport, translation and coordinating all of the first responders. “We work well with other agencies,” Lagarde said.
Marquez agreed. “It was a good team effort.”