Border Patrol remembers fallen members
May 8, 2008 - 5:20PM
Some have died in plane or vehicle crashes, others have given their lives rescuing people from drowning or trying to apprehend drug smugglers.

The U.S. Border Patrol's Yuma sector has lost eight agents in the line of duty over the past 40 years. All were remembered Thursday in a memorial ceremony at Border Patrol headquarters.

"Our promise is that we will not forget those who kept their oath and who paid the ultimate price," said Chief Paul Beeson, leader of the Yuma sector, during an address to agents, family and local officials.

That risk became a reality for the Yuma sector again this year when Senior Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar was killed on Jan. 19. He was run down while trying to lay spike strips across a road to stop a drug-smuggling Hummer in the Imperial Sand Dunes.

Aguilar's widow, Erica Aguilar, attended Thursday's ceremony, as did his sister, Angie, and brother, Marcus "Tony" Aguilar, a senior Border Patrol agent in the Tucson sector.

The brother of Richard A. Lugo, the first agent killed in the Yuma sector in 1967, attended.

Erica Aguilar said the past months have been hard to endure for her and her two children but she's thankful her husband's memory is being preserved.

"It's so hard. We have our moments but we just thank God for our blessings. For our life, for our health, for our family. I'm just thankful that I have my two kids. I see Louie in them every day," she said.

The Aguilar family was presented with honorary plaques from the Military Order of the Purple Heart during the ceremony and laid a wreath in the Border Patrol's memorial garden.

The ceremony also paid tribute to Spc. Kirsten Fike of the Pennsylvania National Guard. She died of heat exposure in 2006 while serving in the Border Patrol assistance effort, Operation Jump Start.

"Each of us knows when we pin on that badge that that is a risk that we accept. We believe in the rule of law. We believe in a secure America," Beeson said.


The U.S. Border Patrol's Yuma sector has lost eight of its agents and member of the National Guard in the last 40 years. Thursday, Yuma sector headquarters remembered them:
*Patrol Inspector Richard A. Lugo died May 14, 1967 in a vehicle accident en route from Yuma to Andrade, Calif. The 1966 International Scout he was traveling in swerved radically and overturned after the right rear tire suddenly deflated.
*Pilot Friedrich Karl and Senior Patrol Agent John S. Blue were killed in an airplane crash on Oct. 4, 1973. The officers were on a signcutting and aircraft patrol assignment when shortly after takeoff from Tacna, their plane's landing gear struck a static power line, causing the aircraft to crash.
*Aircraft Pilot Trainee Lester L. Haynie was killed in an airplane crash on June 14, 1985. Haynie was returning to Yuma from the Imperial Sand Dunes when his plane lost contact with headquarters. It was later found downed beneath San Diego Power and Light cables in Imperial County, Calif. The investigation determined that Haynie had failed to gain altitude to clear the power lines.
*Air Operations Supervisor David F. Roberson was killed on July 14, 1989 when the aircraft he was piloting stalled and crashed.
*Agent Aurelio E. Valencia died on Jan. 25, 1996 in a vehicle accident on California State Route 78, near Glamis, Calif. As he attempted a U-turn to investigate a suspected smuggling vehicle parked south of a checkpoint, his vehicle was struck by a southbound motorist.
*Agent James P. Epling drowned on Jan. 13, 2003 in the Colorado River near Andrade, Calif., while trying to rescue and apprehend illegal immigrants from the river.
*Spc. Kirsten Fike of the Pennsylvania National Guard died of heat exposure on Aug. 10, 2006 while assisting the Border Patrol in Operation Jump Start.
*Senior Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar was killed on Jan. 19, 2008 when he was hit by a Hummer driven by a suspected drug smuggler in the Imperial Sand Dunes.