Troopers: Driver in firefighter crash was in country illegally

Neida Ortega (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Neida Ortega (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Chance Zobel (Source: Angie Rhame)
Chance Zobel (Source: Angie Rhame)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The woman charged in an accident that killed a Columbia firefighter and critically injured another was in the United States illegally, according to troopers.

Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster said 34-year-old Neida Ortega was taken into custody at her home in Sumter Tuesday morning by agents from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Troopers say Ortega caused the accident that killed 23-year-old firefighter Chance Zobel and left firefighter Larry Irvin with critical injuries in the hospital.

According to investigators, the van Ortega was driving rear-ended a Chevy Impala sending it into the median on Interstate 20 near Clemson Road Saturday afternoon. The car hit two fire trucks before striking Zobel and Irvin who were tending to a brush fire.

The firefighters were rushed to the hospital. Zobel died, and Irvin, 30, is listed in critical but stable condition.

Ortega, who has a valid license in Mexico, was charged Monday with driving too fast for conditions and driving without a valid U.S. license.

She will be taken to Charlotte for deportation proceedings.

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Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.