Authorities in Texas made a gruesome discovery Monday when the bodies of more than 40 migrants were found in an abandoned truck trailer in a remote area of San Antonio.
Forty-six people were found dead at the scene, while five more died after being taken to nearby hospitals, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Among the victims were 39 men and 12 women: 22 of which were Mexican, seven were Guatemalan and two were from Honduras, theThe New York Times reported. The other victims have yet to be identified.
Twelve adults and four children were found alive at the scene and were hospitalized for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters that the individuals found inside the trailer had no access to water. Temperatures in San Antonio topped 103 degrees Fahrenheit Monday.
“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.”
“I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of Mexican, Guatemalan and Honduran migrants who died yesterday asphyxiated in a trailer,” said Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “A tremendous misfortune.”
Three people have been taken into custody and the tractor-trailer’s driver was detained after attempting to leave the scene on foot, per the New York Times. The Department of Homeland Security is leading the investigation.
According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, authorities were alerted about the truck around 6 p.m. local time by an individual who heard cries for help in the area. McManus said the discovery marked the single deadliest border crossing attempt known to authorities. In 2017, 10 migrants died after being trapped inside a truck parked at a San Antonio Walmart, while 19 migrants were also found dead in a truck in the city in 2003, the Texas Tribune reported.
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg during a news conference Monday, adding that the deceased were “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
Speaking with reporters, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden was “closely monitoring the absolutely horrific and heartbreaking reports.” She added, “The fact of the matter is, the border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks. Our prayers are with those who tragically lost their lives, their loved ones as well as those still fighting for their lives. We’re also grateful for the swift work of federal, state and local first responders.”
Texas governor Greg Abbott was quick to politicize the tragedy, blaming Biden and Democrats for the continued influx of migrants entering the United States at the Texas border. “These deaths are on Biden,” he wrote on Twitter. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Speaking to Reuters, Jack Staton, a former ICE official, said the area is popular with smugglers due to the large amount of truck traffic along Interstate 35. “It was only a matter of time before a tragedy like this was going to happen again,” he told the publication.
This story was updated on June 28 at 4:50 p.m. ET with an updated death toll, the origins of most of the victims, and a quote from Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel Lóopez Obrador.