Authorities found an abandoned eighteen wheeler not far from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Inside were at least fifty deceased migrants. Sixteen more were taken to a local hospital.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the discovery “nothing short of a horrific human tragedy.”
Federal officials are investigating the incident, and San Antonio officials said that at least three people were in custody following the discovery. It is unclear who those individuals are and their alleged connection to the event.
A spokesperson for ICE revealed that the Department of Homeland Security is carrying out a criminal investigation along with members of the San Antonio Police Department.
The abandoned tractor trailer was found at the intersection of Cassin Drive and Quintana Road. All authorities involved have reason to believe that the individuals inside the enclosed cargo trailer were migrants. They also believe that the migrants were being smuggled across the southern United States border.
The police chief in San Antonio said that the incident was the “deadliest human smuggling (case)” in his memory. The trailer appeared to have refrigeration capabilities, but this was not working at the time.
It is unclear exactly how long the truck and trailer had been abandoned at the Cassin-Quintana intersection. However, late Monday, at approximately 6 PM, a road worker called the authorities after hearing cries for assistance coming from the trailer.
The Commissioner of the CBP (Border Patrol), Chris Magnus, released a statement: “This speaks to the desperation of migrants who would put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life.” Magnus also related that the CBP would be working along with the state and local level law enforcement departments.
One law enforcement official said that some of the deceased were found for several blocks leading away from the trailer. They believe the individuals were trying to jump from the trailer.
Of those who survived and were taken to the hospital, twelve were adults and four are considered children. The survivors were “hot to the touch,” and officials believed they were suffering from either heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service have already described this month as the hottest June in San Antonio since they began recording temperatures. According to Bob Fogarty, who is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, the typical June in San Antonio has at least nine days when the average high temperature is at least 100. In June 2022, there have been at least sixteen days with a high temp reaching that milestone. June has been unseasonably warm across the country.
Authorities aren’t sure just how many people were inside the truck. It is quite the task to account for all of them. Although the nationalities of the migrants is unknown, the Foreign Minister of Mexico is en route to San Antonio. A few of the immigrants have been identified as Guatemalan. Officials from the consulate for Guatemala have visited the hospital in McAllen, Texas to potentially identify two children seeking treatment there.
Honduran officials are also investigating whether some of the migrants were Honduran.
The last time a group of migrants were found lifeless in an abandoned tractor trailer was 2017. At that time, San Antonio police found the migrants along with the driver of the truck; ten migrants died as a result of heat exposure. The driver was sentenced to life in prison. In 2003, nineteen were found suffocated to death in Victoria, Texas (they were also inside a trailer without air).
Governor Greg Abbott said that the deaths “are a result of his deadly open border policies.” The DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas commented that he was “heartbroken” and that “far too many lives have been lost . . as individuals . . . take this dangerous journey.”
Democratic candidate for Texas Governor Beto O’Rourke described the deaths as “devastating.”