A tractor-trailer found near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio contained the bodies of 46 dead people, along with 16 others who have been taken to hospitals, local officials in San Antonio said on Monday evening.
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a news conference near the scene.
Local officials said federal authorities were now investigating the case and that three people were in custody but in was unclear if they were connected to the incident.
The horrifying discovery was made near the intersection of Cassin Drive and Quintana Road in Southwest San Antonio.
A local official who spoke to The Texas Tribune on condition of anonymity said that federal, state and local authorities believed that the people were migrants. Cross-border smuggling and human trafficking have been longstanding problems along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the deaths of 46 people represent a stunning loss of life.
Authorities received the first call about the truck shortly before 6 p.m. from a worker in the area who had heard a cry for help and went to investigate, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.
The city’s fire chief, Charles Hood, said he was “very hopeful” that the 16 people who were transported to the hospital would survive. They were all suffering heat-related illness.
Hood said there no signs of water inside the truck, and while it was a refrigerated vehicle, “there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.” Those who were taken to the hospital were “too weak” to pull themselves out of the truck, Hood added.
With a few days left in the month, National Weather Service meteorologists say June 2022 has already become the warmest June on record in San Antonio.
The average number of days with temperatures of 100 degrees or higher in San Antonio is nine, according to historical data from NWS dating back to 1885. This year, San Antonio has had 16 days with temperatures of 100 degrees or higher, NWS meteorologist Bob Fogarty said.
McManus told reporters he was not confident everyone who had been inside the truck was accounted for yet and that authorities still don’t have an indication of how many people in total had been inside the truck. He said the three people in custody were not found with the truck but declined to comment further.
In 2017, San Antonio police discovered 39 undocumented immigrants inside of a scorching-hot tractor-trailer, resulting in 10 deaths. The driver of the truck was sentenced to life in prison in 2018.
Meanwhile in 2003, 19 undocumented immigrants were found dead in Victoria after suffocating in an airless trailer.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol last week said it had disrupted four human smuggling events that resulted in 50 arrests.
Gustavo García-Siller, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, wrote on Twitter: “Once again, the lack of courage to deal with immigration reform is killing and destroying lives. We do not learn. God teach us to change.”
This is a developing story; check back for details.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/27/bodies-18-wheeler-san-antonio-lackland/.
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