‘Pack of dead bodies’: 46 dead migrants found in truck in Texas

The bodies of 46 dead migrants were discovered inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, city officials said, in one of the deadliest recent incidents of human trafficking at the US-Mexico border.

A San Antonio Fire Department official said they found “piles of bodies” and no signs of water in the truck, which was found next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city’s southern outskirts.

The department said sixteen other people found inside the trailer were taken to hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, but no children were among the dead.

“The patients we saw were hot to the touch, they were suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said at a news conference.

“It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer but the A/C unit that worked on that rig was not visible.”

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 160 miles (250 km) from the Mexican border, reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 C) with high humidity on Monday.

City Police Chief William McManus said a man working in a nearby building heard a cry for help and came out to investigate.

The worker found the doors of the trailer partially open and looked inside and found several bodies.

McManus said it was the largest of its kind in the city and added that three people were in custody after the incident, though their involvement was unclear.

A spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said its Homeland Security Investigations Division was investigating “an alleged human trafficking incident” in coordination with local police.

The deaths once again highlight the challenge of controlling migrant crossings at the US-Mexico border, which have reached record highs.

The issue has proved difficult for US President Joe Biden, a Democrat who came to office in January 2021 and pledged to reverse some of the harsh immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

Republicans have criticized Biden’s border strategy ahead of midterm congressional elections in November.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the migrants’ suffocation in the truck a “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter and said consular officials would go to the hospitals where the victims were taken to help “however possible”.

A spokesman for the Honduran Foreign Ministry told Reuters that the country’s consulates in Houston and Dallas would investigate the incident. Ebrard said two Guatemalans were hospitalized and Guatemala’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that consular officials were “going to the hospital to verify if there are two Guatemalan minors and what condition they are in.”

According to Jack Staten, a former senior officer in ICE’s investigative unit, the I-35 highway where the truck was found runs from the Mexican border through San Antonio and is a popular smuggling corridor due to the large volume of truck traffic. December.

In July 2017, 10 migrants died after being taken in a tractor-trailer discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was sentenced to life imprisonment the following year for his role in the smuggling operation.

Staten said migrants have been stopped regularly in the area since the 2017 incident.

“It was only a matter of time before a tragedy like this was going to happen again,” he said.