Forty-six people were found dead, and 16 others were taken to hospitals Monday after a tractor-trailer carrying suspected migrants was found abandoned in a remote area of San Antonio amid rising temperatures in Texas, officials said.
According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, a city worker heard a cry for help from the truck shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and discovered the horrific scene. Hours later, body bags lay strewn on the floor by the trailer as a grim symbol of the disaster.
Sixteen people found in the truck are being treated at a hospital, fire chief Charles Hood said, including 12 adults and four children, whom he called teens and young adults. None of those who died were children, Hood said.
“They were suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion,” Hood said, adding that there were no signs of water or working air conditioning on the semi-truck.
The immigrants’ homelands and how long they were left on the side of the road were not immediately known.
Hood said those still alive were too weak to help themselves out of the truck. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the San Antonio area could reach the 90s to nearly 100 degrees on Monday.
McManus confirmed that three people have been taken into custody Monday, adding: “We don’t know if they are involved or not.
The investigation has been turned over to federal authorities, McManus said.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the deaths were “nothing short of a horrific human tragedy.”
Monday’s deaths are the most recent incidents officials believe they are related to border crossings. In March 2021, 13 people, including the driver, were killed when an SUV full of at least 25 migrants, authorities said had entered the country illegally, collided with a semi-truck in Southern California.
Months later, a van carrying 29 suspected migrants crashed in remote southern Texas, killing at least ten people and injuring 20 others.
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In recent years, crossings by undocumented migrants have typically declined during the summer months, as many avoided the deadly summer heat. With U.S. policies delaying their entry and deteriorating conditions in their home countries, more asylum seekers attempted to enter during the summer, prompting U.S. Border Patrol officials to issue warnings and train their agents to prevent migrants from entering the sun. Perish.
“We know that there have been more and more migrants crossing the border over the past 6-12 months,” Nirenberg said.
In May, border agents and officials encountered 239,416 migrants at the southwestern border — up from 180,597 in May, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics released earlier this month. The figures for June are still being compiled, but migrant reception officials expect numbers to be as high as last year, when more than 189,304 migrants crossed, a record in two decades.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection and critic of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy, quickly blamed the commander-in-chief for the death.
“These deaths are on Biden. They are the result of his deadly open border policy,” Abbott said on Twitter. “They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Rubén Minutti Zanatta, Mexico’s consul general in San Antonio, said in a tweet that he waited outside San Antonio Monday night while awaiting federal authorities to release the nationalities of the deceased.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter that two of the 16 injured were Guatemalans.
Contributors: Rick Jervis, USA TODAY; The Associated Press