At least 51 people died and many more were hospitalized Tuesday following the discovery of an abandoned tractor trailer in the scorching heat in San Antonio, officials say, the worst kidnapping incident in the country.
The death toll rose to 51 during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, said Rebecca Clay-Flores, commissioner of Bexar County Presiding 1. Initially, 46 people died in the trailer on Monday and 16 were admitted to hospital, officials said.
Mexico’s Consul General in San Antonio Ruben Minutti Janatta said Tuesday that three of the patients admitted to the hospital had died and 13 others, including a 16-year-old, were still hospitalized.
He said at least two of those 13 were in critical condition or in critical condition. San Antonio Mayor Ron Niranberg said the victims were “families trying to find a better life.”
“It’s nothing short of a terrible human tragedy,” Nirenberg said. “It’s a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before.”
Here is what we know at the moment:
The death toll from a kidnapping incident in the United States is at an all-time high, according to Craig Larapi, the special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in San Antonio.
Immigrants seeking to cross the South American border are naturally dangerous and hundreds of deaths are reported each year. Smuggling is one of the many ways immigrants enter the United States
According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration In 2021, 651 people died trying to cross the US-Mexico border – Largest number since 2014.
Authorities met with 239,416 migrants along the southwest border in May – 180,597 more than at the same time last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The incident in San Antonio was one of several kidnappings on the South American border that resulted in years of death:
- July 23, 2017: Eight immigrants were found dead in a trailer in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot. Two more died at the hospital without treatment. The driver was sentenced to life imprisonment.
- May 14, 2003: 19 migrants die inside an abandoned, refrigerated milk truck while traveling from South Texas to Houston. The truck driver was eventually sentenced to 34 years in federal prison.
- March 3, 2021: 13 suspected immigrants are killed in a collision with an SUV tractor-trailer in California.
- August 4, 2021: A van carrying 29 suspected immigrants crashes in southern Texas, killing 10 and injuring 20 others.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said the truck was found by a city employee who heard screams for help from the truck just before 6pm on Monday.
Officers found a body on the ground outside the trailer, and a few hours later, body bags spread on the ground outside the truck.
San Antonio fire chief Charles Hood said the truck’s passengers were suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion. There was no sign of water in the truck or any indication that the air conditioning was working.
Hood said the remaining passengers were too weak to expel themselves in the middle of the truck Monday’s temperature is approaching 100 degrees.
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The victims were Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans
Twelve adults and four children were initially admitted to the hospital, Hood said Monday. None of the dead had children.
U.S. officials did not immediately release further details about the conditions of the injured or the homeland of the people found in the truck.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the identified individuals are from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. On Tuesday afternoon, medical examiners identified 34 of the victims, but Clay-Flores said they were taking additional measures such as fingerprints to confirm their identities.
According to the Sanata, Mexico’s forensic office said 27 of the dead were believed to be Mexicans based on documents they had taken with them.
Zanatta said he has received 30 requests from Mexican people searching for missing relatives and that their missing loved ones may be related to the group found in the trailer.
One of the surviving Mexicans from the trailer is Jose Luis Guzman Vasquez, 32, of San Miguel Huatla in the southern state of Oaxaca, according to Ida Ruiz Garcia, director of the Oaxacan Institute for Immigration Attention.
A relative, Alejandro Lopez, told Milinio Television that the family had worked in agriculture and construction and had emigrated because “we have nothing but hats, palms and handicrafts.”
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The driver of the truck and two others were arrested, according to Henry Kuller, the U.S. ambassador to Texas.
He said the truck went through a border security checkpoint northeast of Laredo, Texas. At Interstate 35, when the checkpoint was removed, Kuller did not know if there were any immigrants inside the truck.
Investigators found the truck’s record in an apartment in San Antonio and detained two men from Mexico for possession of weapons, according to criminal complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The complainants did not make any specific allegations regarding the death.
The truck, which was found Monday next to a railroad track in an area of San Antonio, was thought to have mechanical malfunctions when it was surrounded by vehicle scrapboards, brushing against a busy highway, Bexar District Judge Nelson Wolf said. That includes San Antonio.
Janata said Tuesday that at least one American of the suspects has been admitted to hospital.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has promised an investigation into what happened and the alleged abduction. The Homeland Security Inquiry has arrested three people “believed to be part of a kidnapping conspiracy,” the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement USA TODAY confirmed in a statement. No information on their names and activities has been released.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called the “tragic loss of life” in San Antonio “terrifying and heartbreaking.”
“While we are still learning all the facts about what happened, the Department of Homeland Security is at the forefront of the investigation.
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Contributed by: Associated Press