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Death toll rises to 50 after dozens of migrants found trapped in tractor trailer in San Antonio

A tractor trailer is seen surrounded by law enforcement on San Antonio's Quintana Road on June 27, 2022.
Joey Palacios
A tractor trailer is seen surrounded by law enforcement on San Antonio's Quintana Road on June 27, 2022.

At least 50 people are dead after dozens of migrants making their way to the U.S. were found trapped in a tractor trailer in Southwest San Antonio Monday evening.

46 people died at the scene and four people were later pronounced dead at area hospitals, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrand.

Ebrand said 22 were Mexican nationals, seven were from Guatemala, two were from Honduras, and the remaining people have not yet been identified.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said a worker at a nearby facility heard a person crying for help and found the trailer with numerous dead inside.

At a press conference at the scene Monday evening, San Antonino Fire Chief Charles Hood said 16 people were found alive and transported to area hospitals, including four children. They were hot to the touch and suffering from heat exhaustion.

“No signs of water in the vehicle, it was a refrigerated tractor trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig,” Hood said.

Temperatures in San Antonio have reached over 100 degrees in June.

Officials were unable to say where the truck originated or where it was going.

McManus did say three people were arrested and the incident is now under federal jurisdiction with Homeland Security Investigations.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott retweeted the news from the conservative online newspaper, The Daily Wire, blaming the incident on President Joe Biden's border policies.

Abbott's challenger, Beto O'Rourke, in a tweet called for increased legal pathways to citizenship that don't incentivize such dangerous journeys.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation's largest Latino civil rights organization, issued a statement calling for responsible dialogue on immigration following this tragedy.

"The politics of President Trump and Governor Abbott to build the wall, deport them all, and Operation Lone Star have all been abysmal failures. Both Democrats and Republicans need to work together on a new bipartisan immigration bill," said Domingo García, LULAC's National President.

"The reforms must allow us to bring in legal guest workers and open legal avenues for people to come in to help our economy. These steps will prevent these refugees and immigrants from being thrown into the hands of human smugglers and coyotes who are willing to risk the lives of others for a dollar, as well as American employers who want cheap labor that can be exploited."

The Archbishop of San Antonio Gustavo Garcia-Siller tweeted “once again the lack of courage to deal with immigration is killing and destroying lives.” 

This is the second time in five years that San Antonio, which is about 150 miles from the Mexico border, has witnessed the deaths of people trapped inside an 18-wheeler. In 2017, ten migrants were found dead in a tractor trailer in a Walmart parking lot.

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Joey Palacios
Dan Katz