SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Forty-six people were found dead and 16 others were taken to hospitals after a tractor-trailer carrying suspected migrants was found Monday on a remote road in southwest San Antonio, officials said.
A city worker on site was alerted to the situation by a cry for help shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, police chief William McManus said. Officers arrived and found a body on the ground outside the trailer and a partially opened gate to the trailer, he said.
Of the 16 taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses, 12 were adults and four children, fire chief Charles Hood said. The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and no water was found in the trailer, he said.
Three people were detained, but it was unclear whether they were absolutely involved in human trafficking, McManus said.
Those in the trailer were part of a suspected migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, and the investigation was being led by US Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.
Those in the trailer were involved in a suspected migrant smuggling attempt in South Texas, according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the information was not authorized for public release.
It is arguably the deadliest tragedy of the thousands of people who have died in recent decades trying to cross the US border from Mexico. Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped in a truck parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a blistering truck southeast of San Antonio.
Big rigs emerged as a popular method of smuggling in the early 1990s, amid a wave of U.S. border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.
Before that, people paid small fees to mom-and-pop operators to get them across a largely unguarded frontier. When crossing the road became exponentially more difficult after the 2001 terror attacks in the US, migrants were led through more dangerous terrain and paid thousands of dollars more.
Heat is a serious hazard, especially when the temperature inside vehicles can rise sharply. The weather in the San Antonio area was mostly cloudy on Monday, but temperatures were approaching 100 degrees.
Spagat reported from San Diego, California.
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