“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” fire chief Charles Hood told reporters. “None of us come to work imagining that.”
A city worker alerted law enforcement after hearing a cry for help coming from the scene on June 27 around 6 p.m. Upon arrival officers discovered a semi truck with a gate left ajar and a body on the ground outside.
Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images
Dozens more dead bodies were found scattered in the surrounding area and inside the truck. Due to the distance between the recovered corpses law enforcement believes people attempted to jump out of the rig. Among the dead were 39 males and 11 females.
Sixteen people were taken to hospitals, twelve of whom were adults and four minors reported Hood. He said “the survivors did not appear to have access to water and were too weak to exit the truck on their own.” Steak seasoning was sprinkled on many of the people to conceal the smell inside the truck during the illegal transportation.
The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated. The event occurred during some of San Antonio’s record high temperatures. Though South Texas is a known hot spot for illegal border crossings this incident seems to be the deadliest attempt in recent history.
“They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,” Hood said. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”
While many of the victims remain unidentified Roberto Velasco Alvarez, head of the North America department in Mexico's Foreign Relations Department, announced in a Tweet the confirmed citizenship of 31 people. Twenty-two of the deceased were from Mexico, seven from Guatemala and two from Honduras.
The truck used was carefully disguised as a Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting truck. The same identifying numbers used for the federal Department of Transportation and the Texas DOT appeared on the semi, however, it lacked the company’s logo which is found on the other trucks the company owns.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said three people have been taken into custody, but it is currently unknown if they were linked to human trafficking. Homeland Security has taken over the investigation.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, center, briefs media and others at the scene where the bodies were discovered. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)
Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, made a statement on Twitter announcing Mexico’s cooperative plan with the US. “We’re in mourning. A huge tragedy. Mexico will join investigations in the US.”
The incident has emitted political responses from both United States officials and world leaders including United States President Joe Biden.
"Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry," Biden said in a statement the morning of June 28.
In direct contrast, Texas Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter to share his view on the situation.
“At Least 42 People Found Dead Inside Truck Carrying Migrants In Texas. These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott tweeted. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador addressed the event in his daily press conference. He expressed his condolences and ensured Mexico’s participation in the investigation.
“This is bitter proof that we must continue to insist on supporting people so that they do not have to leave their villages to look for a life on the other side of the border,” López Obrador said.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei spoke out on Twitter as well, “It is inexcusable that innocent lives continue to be lost to migrant smuggling! My condolences to the families of the deceased in Texas.”