ALPINE, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- A Seminole man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to transporting undocumented noncitizens into the country and causing serious bodily injury after crashing his plane in a human smuggling attempt gone wrong in 2021.

According to court documents, Tobias Penner Peters, 46, piloted an aircraft carrying five undocumented noncitizens on December 30, 2021 and crashed in Presidio County shortly after taking off from the Presidio Airport. U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to the crash and found five injured undocumented migrants on board. One of the people smuggled aboard Peters’ plane and subsequently injured in the crash suffered a back injury, was life-flighted to an El Paso hospital, and remains in a wheelchair today.

Investigators said the four-seater plane was overloaded with people and cargo, which, when coupled with low fuel, led to the crash. 

When investigators arrived at the crash site, Peters was nowhere to be found; investigators said he left the scene of the crash and headed toward Mexico. He turned himself in at the Presidio Port of Entry three months later.

Peters is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.