On Monday, at least 46 undocumented migrants were found dead inside an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas. Sixteen others, including 12 adults and four children, have been transported to area hospitals, with at least five of them reportedly in critical condition.
Those who were found alive were hot to the touch and suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion, and there was no sign of water in the refrigerated tractor-trailer and no visible working air conditioning unit, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. About 60 firefighters were on the scene.
Temperatures in San Antonio climbed to 101 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, while the heat in a packed trailer was likely way higher than that. The U.S. National Association of Medical Examiners has recommended that bodies with a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or greater at the time of collapse be certified as heat-related deaths.
Three people are in police custody, but it's unclear if they are involved in the tragedy, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told a briefing Monday night.
Police received a call on Monday evening from a person working nearby, who heard a cry for help from the 18-wheeler in the southwest of the city, approached and saw bodies inside the trailer with its doors partially open.The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is leading an investigation on an alert by San Antonio police to "an alleged human smuggling event."
"There are, that we know of, 46 individuals who are no longer with us, who had families, who were likely trying to find a better life. And we have 16 folks who are fighting for their lives in the hospital," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
"Migrants seeking asylum should always be treated as a humanitarian crisis, but this evening we're facing a horrific human tragedy," he tweeted earlier.
In 2017, 10 migrants died in a packed truck carrying 39 people in San Antonio in summer. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of the city.