The bodies of more than 50 people were found in a tractor-trailer near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. 16 others had been taken to hospital by the time that police arrived on the scene.
The discovery was made near an intersection in Southwest San Antonio between Quintana Road and Cassin Drive.
The investigation is still ongoing and three people have been taken into custody. It’s unclear if they are connected to the incident.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced that they are collaborating with San Antonio police in order to lead a criminal investigation.
It has been reported that the victims were believed to be migrants.
The United States and Mexico have a long history of dealing with people who attempt to cross into the other country illegally. These problems are nothing new, but they’ve recently received more attention as border security has increased.
The San Antonio Police Chief, William McManus, described this as one of the most significant human smuggling incidents in recent memory.
“Horrified at this tragic loss of life near San Antonio,” said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus in a statement. “This speaks to the desperation of migrants who put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life.”
“We will be working with our federal, state, and local partners to assist in every way possible with this investigation.”
The authorities were called to the scene before 6 pm when a worker in close proximity heard cries for help and investigated.
According to a law enforcement official, it is possible that people attempted to jump out of the tractor-trailer because some of the deceased were found along several blocks.
It looks like the trailer had a refrigeration system, but it doesn’t seem to have worked, according to the official.
It is unclear what caused the people found inside to be sprinkled with steak seasoning, but it’s likely an attempt at covering up their smell.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they discovered a body outside the vehicle as the trucks’ doors were partly open.
When San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood saw the survivors were too weak to exit their truck themselves, he speculated they didn’t have access to water.
“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” he said. “None of us come to work imagining that.”
The authorities are still unsure about the total number of people inside, but William McManus believes that not everyone was accounted for.
Twelve adults and four children were taken to the hospital.
The survivors were reported to be suffering from heat exhaustion and stroke, but Hood shared his hopefulness that they would survive.