‘Stacks of Bodies’: 50 Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Truck in Texas

At least 50 migrants died and 16 others were taken to local hospitals with heat-related injuries, according to authorities

At least 50 migrants were found dead in a scorching hot tractor-trailer in San Antonio on Monday in what appears to be the deadliest human smuggling case in modern U.S. history.

Authorities initially found the bodies of 46 people in the abandoned big rig, officials announced on Tuesday. Sixteen others, including four children, were alive and taken to local hospitals with heat-related injuries.

The death toll rose to 50 by Tuesday morning, with three people dying at Baptist Medical Center, a spokeswoman told the New York Times. However, it was not immediately clear where the 50th victim died.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said that the deceased included 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, and two Hondurans. Others have not yet been identified.

Officials did not identify a cause of death, but suggested that extreme heat was likely a factor as the truck did not have operating air-conditioning, there were no signs of water, and the temperature reached 101 degrees in San Antonio on Monday, officials said.

Three individuals believed to be part of the suspected smuggling conspiracy have been taken into custody, authorities said. But it remains unclear if the driver, who has been sought by law enforcement since the truck was abandoned near railroad tracks, was among those detained.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a press conference Monday that authorities received a call at about 6 p.m. from an employee—who works at a nearby business—who had heard cries for help and found the trailer with its doors partially open. The worker found a number of dead bodies inside the tractor-trailer, McManus said.

Charles Hood, the city’s fire chief, said the people who were transported to hospitals were “hot to the touch.” Authorities said it’s unclear how long the group was in the truck before they were found.

According to CBS News, the victims were a mix of men and women of various ages, but none of the deceased appeared to be minors, officials said.

“You’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there. None of us come to work imagining that,” Hood said of the horrific scene.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the incident “a horrific human tragedy.”

“Migrants seeking asylum should always be treated as a humanitarian crisis, but this evening we’re facing a horrific human tragedy,” he said. “More than 40 hopeful lives were lost. I urge you to think compassionately, pray for the deceased, the ailing, and their families at this moment.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s investigation unit will lead the probe for the smuggling case, and will work in conjunction with the San Antonio Police Department, law enforcement officials told CBS News.

In a statement, DHS said it is “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.”

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