After watching gunmen shoot dead his mother and two brothers, 13-year-old Devin Langford hid six surviving siblings in nearby bushes and walked for about five hours in a rugged expanse of northern Mexico to get help.
The harrowing account was given by members of three Mexican-American Mormon families who were attacked by suspected drug cartel hitmen on Monday, with three women and six children killed.
The families, members of Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico decades ago, were set upon as they drove along a remote dirt road in Sonora State.
Following the attack, Devin, who was uninjured, set off alone in rough, mountainous terrain, walking 23km to look for help, the families said in a statement.
“After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawna [Langford]’s son Devin hid his six other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help,” the families said.
For 11 hours, the relatives had no idea about what had happened to their loved ones.
The three mothers and 14 children were in three vehicles that left from a small village in Sonora to meet with relatives in Chihuahua State and Phoenix, Arizona.
The murders sparked calls from US President Donald Trump for Mexico to join forces with the US to crack down on drug gangs amid mounting concerns over security after a string of mass killings in the past few weeks.
No official explanation has been given for the killings, although the Mexican government said that those killed might have been caught in the crossfire of a turf war between an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel.
Relatives of the dead have dismissed the notion that the women and children could have been targeted due to mistaken identity in a shooting spree.
The mothers of the Langford, Miller and Johnson families were driving separate SUVs when the gunmen opened fire. All three mothers lost their lives.
The youngest of Devin’s siblings, nine-month old Oliver, was shot in the chest; eight-year-old Cody had bullet wounds to the jaw and a leg, while Xander, four, had been hit in the back. Brothers Trevor, 11, and Rogan, two, lay dead.
When Devin failed to return, his nine-year-old sister Mckenzie, who was grazed in the arm, walked 16km before getting lost in the dark, the families said.
Search parties later found her, the families said.
Another sister, Kylie, was shot in the foot, while sibling Ryder was uninjured.
Nearby, the attack on the vehicle transporting the Miller family had claimed five lives; mother Rhonita, and four children, including eight-month old twins Titus and Tiana.
“All shot and burned in their vehicle,” the families’ statement said. “Only ashes and a few bones remain.”
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