SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Forty-six people were found dead after being abandoned in a tractor-trailer in the sweltering Texas heat in the latest tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico to the U.S. Sixteen people were hospitalized, including four children.
A city worker heard a cry for help from the truck on a lonely San Antonio back road shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and discovered the gruesome scene, Police Chief William McManus said. Hours later, body bags lay spread on the ground near the trailer and bodies remained inside as authorities responded to the calamity.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 who died had “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.
It’s among the deadliest of the tragedies that have claimed thousands of lives in recent decades as people attempt to cross the U.S. border from Mexico. Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of San Antonio.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that President Joe Biden was “closely monitoring the absolutely horrific and heartbreaking reports” from San Antonio. Jean-Pierre pushed back against some Republican lawmakers who blamed the administration for the deaths.
“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,” Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
The home countries of all of the migrants and how long they were abandoned on the side of the road were not immediately known.
Among them, 22 are from Mexico, seven are from Guatemala and two are from Honduras, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, head of the North America department in Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department, said on Twitter.
“Our condolences,” he tweeted. “All responsible will be brought to justice.”
South Texas has long been the busiest area for illegal border crossings. Migrants ride in vehicles through Border Patrol checkpoints to San Antonio, the closest major city, from which point they disperse across the United States.