Fifty migrants are dead after they and others were found in sweltering conditions in a semitruck in San Antonio, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson said Tuesday. Three people detained away from the trailer site are in police custody, though their connection to the situation is unclear, Police Chief Bill McManus said at a news conference Monday night.
“An alleged human smuggling event” was alerted by San Antonio police to the US Department of Homeland Security’s investigation unit, which is leading the probe, an ICE spokesperson said Monday. The incident appears to be among the most deadly in recent years for migrants near the southern border.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said 22 of the dead were Mexican nationals, while seven were from Guatemala and two from Honduras. The nationalities of the remaining 19 people had yet to be confirmed.
“It’s tragic,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “They had families… and were likely trying to find a better life. It’s nothing short of a horrific human tragedy. … We hope that those responsible for putting these people through such inhumane conditions are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Three people have been taken into custody, but it’s not clear what they have been charged with.
“Horrified at this tragic loss of life near San Antonio. 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,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “We will be working with our federal, state and local partners to assist in every way possible with this investigation.”
The deaths were all heat-related, according to San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood, per CBS News.
“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” Hood said. “None of us come to work imagining that.”
Twelve adults and four children were taken to hospitals. They were hot to the touch and were suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but Hood said he was “very hopeful” that they would survive.
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