San Antonio, TX – At least 50 illegal immigrants were found dead inside an abandoned tractor-trailer parked on a remote back road on the outskirts of San Antonio on Monday.
Investigators said it is one of the deadliest human-smuggling tragedies in modern history, WNYW reported.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said a San Antonio city worker made the gruesome discovery shortly before 6 p.m. on June 27 after hearing a cry for help coming from the abandoned semi-trailer, according to WJXT.
Forty-six people were dead inside the sweltering trailer when the doors were opened, and 16 more were rushed to the hospital.
Four of the hospitalized victims were children, WJXT reported.
Investigators upped the death toll to 50 on Tuesday morning.
It was unclear how long the group had been trapped inside the abandoned tractor-trailer.
Temperatures in San Antonio soared as high as 99 degrees on Monday, WNYW reported.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said those rescued from the trailer were dehydrated and hot to the touch, according to the news outlet.
46 illegal immigrants found dead in the US ▫️44 illegal immigrants were found dead in a closed trailer of a truck in the city of San Antonio, Texas. More than 10 life-threatening people were hospitalized. #BREAKING pic.twitter.com/6EefnbsukP
— Akıncı (@Aknc35624923) June 28, 2022
Investigators did not find any water inside the vehicle.
“They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,” Hood said, according to WNYW. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”
The fire chief said the scene was difficult for first responders.
“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” he said.
🚨#BREAKING: 42+ people found dead inside truck in San Antonio, Texas
According to emergency personnel, Reportedly an 18 wheeler packed with illegal aliens was found abandoned in the city’s southwestern edge resulting with 42+ dead inside the truck pic.twitter.com/h1PyF6Ud39
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) June 28, 2022
Mexico Foreign Relations Department spokesperson Velasco Alvarez said that 22 of the people found inside the trailer were from Mexico, two were from Honduras, and seven were from Guatemala, WJXT reported.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the illegal immigrants were “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” Nirenberg added.
Chief McManus said three people were taken into custody, but it was not immediately known whether or not they were directly connected with human trafficking, WNYW reported.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a total of 557 people died on the southwest border during the 12-month period that ended on Sept. 20, 2021.
That figure was more than double the number of deaths reported the year prior, WNYW reported.
Most of those who died succumbed to elements of heat exposure.
Law enforcement officers have encountered more than one million illegal immigrants along the southwest border since January, which was six times more than the number encountered during the same time period in 2020, according to NBC News.
U.S. Homeland Security’s Investigations Unit is leading the investigation into the incident, WJXT reported.