San Antonio trailer deaths: 50 immigrants believed to have died after being found inside a truck, official says

San Antonio trailer deaths: 50 immigrants believed to have died after being found inside a truck, official says
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The death toll, given by the city’s fire chief on Monday at 46, includes migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Its discovery on Monday comes as US federal authorities launched a “unprecedented” operation to disrupt human trafficking networks in the midst of a influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

San Antonio police alerted “a suspected human trafficking event” to the US Department of Homeland Security investigative unit, which is leading the investigation, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said Monday. . The incident appears to be among the deadliest in recent years for migrants near the southern border.

Three people detained away from the trailer site are in police custody, although their connection to the situation is unclear, Police Chief Bill McManus said at a news conference Monday night.

Authorities were alerted to the scene shortly before 6 p.m., when a worker in a nearby building heard a cry for help, McManus said. The worker found a trailer with the doors partially open and saw deceased people inside, McManus said.

Forty-eight people died at the scene and two died in hospitals, the federal law enforcement official told CNN on Tuesday, noting that the number of victims is preliminary.

Sixteen people — 12 adults and four children — were taken alive and conscious to medical facilities, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said at Monday night’s news conference.

The patients were hot to the touch and suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion, Hood said. The refrigerator semi-trailer did not have a visible working air conditioning unit, and there was no sign of water inside, he said.

High temperatures Monday in the San Antonio area ranged from 90 degrees to 100 degrees. according to the National Weather Service.

“None of these people were able to get out of the truck,” Hood said. “So, they were still there, waiting for help, when we arrived… which means they were too weak, in a weakened state, to go out and help themselves.”

Among those in the truck were at least 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans and two Hondurans, the federal police official said.

Federal authorities are trying to figure out the origin of the truck and its route, the official said, adding that it is not clear how long the people inside the truck were dead.

The victims “were probably trying to find a better life”

“I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and pray for those still fighting for their lives,” the Homeland Security secretary said. Alexander Mayorcas he said on social media. “Too many lives have been lost as people, including families, women and children, take this dangerous journey.”

All 60 firefighters who were on scene are undergoing a critical incident stress report, Hood said.

“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see piles of bodies there. None of us come to work imagining that,” the fire chief said.

One of the bodies was outside the trailer when firefighters arrived, Hood said.

“It’s tragic,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Monday. Those who died, he said, “had families, who were probably trying to find a better life.”

First on CNN: Biden administration launches 'unprecedented' operation to disrupt human smuggling as caravan moves north

Assistance will be provided to Mexican citizens, the Mexican consul general in San Antonio said on social media. At least two of the 16 survivors have been identified as Guatemalan, according to Mexico’s foreign minister, citing the consul.

US officials are working to better manage the flow of migrants toward the US-Mexico border, Mayorkas told CNN earlier this month. His operation builds on earlier efforts to go after the smugglers migrants often rely on on their way to the border. Last spring, the Department of Homeland Security also announced an effort to crack down on smuggling criminal organizations, along with federal partners.

In recent years, migrants have faced other tragedies and challenges enduring dangerous heat and terrain as they attempt to cross the US-Mexico border.

Ransoms at the US southern border have exceeded those of the last fiscal year. Since October, there have been more than 14,000 searches and rescues along the southern US border, according to US Customs and Border Protection, including rescues from dangerous water crossings. That’s more than 12,833 searches and rescues in fiscal year 2021, with more than three months to go.
In 2017, 10 people died and dozens were injured from heat-related conditions. after being discovered in a tractor trailer at a San Antonio Walmart. The truck driver was sentenced to life without parole in a federal prison.
In 2003, 18 victims ranging in age from 7 to 91 were found dead in the back of a truck with 100 other people when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, investigators said. The driver in that case was initially sentenced to life in prison, but in 2011 was resentenced to almost 34 years in prison.
The heat has not been the only danger for migrants crammed into vehicles. In March 2021, a truck packed with 25 people collided with an SUV in an isolated stretch of California’s Imperial Valley. killing 13 undocumented immigrants.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung, Michelle Watson, Karol Suarez, Sharif Paget, Jen Deaton, Amanda Jackson and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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