'Stacked bodies' of 46 migrants found dead in Texas lorry trailer tragedy

28 June 2022, 06:00 | Updated: 28 June 2022, 08:49

At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio.
At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio. Picture: Getty

By Sophie Barnett

Three people have been arrested after the bodies of 46 migrants were found in an abandoned lorry trailer in Texas, in one of the most deadly recent incidents of human smuggling along the US border.

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Sixteen people were taken to hospitals after the lorry was found on a remote back road near San Antonio, on the border with Mexico.

Those inside the trailer were part of a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the US, and died from extreme heat.

A city worker at the scene heard a cry for help shortly before 6pm on Monday, police chief William McManus said.

Officers arrived to find a body on the ground and a partially opened gate to the trailer.

Sixteen patients have been taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses following the soaring temperatures inside the lorry.

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At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio.
At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio. Picture: Getty

Twelve of these were adults and four were children, and they were hot to the touch and dehydrated, fire chief Charles Hood said.

Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, blamed US President Joe Biden for the tragedy, saying: "These deaths are on Biden."

He wrote on Twitter that the migrant deaths are a result of his "deadly open border policies".

A San Antonio Fire Department official said they found "stacks of bodies" and no signs of water in the truck, which was found abandoned next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city's southern outskirts.

"It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig," Mr Hood said.

Mayor of San Antonio Ron Nirenberg said: "This is nothing short of a human tragedy."

He said the 46 who died had "families who were likely trying to find a better life".

At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio.
At least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio. Picture: Getty

"Migrants seeking asylum should always be treated as a humanitarian crisis, but this evening we're facing a horrific human tragedy," he wrote on Twitter.

"More than 40 hopeful lives were lost. I urge you to think compassionately, pray for the deceased, the ailing, and their families at this moment."

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Those in the trailer were part of a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the US and the investigation was being led by Homeland Security Investigations, Mr McManus said.

Police chief William McManus said it was unclear if those arrested were connected with human trafficking and remain in custody.

Local priests from the San Antonio Archdiocese stand near the scene where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside
Local priests from the San Antonio Archdiocese stand near the scene where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside. Picture: Getty

It may be the deadliest tragedy among thousands where people have died attempting to cross the border from Mexico in recent decades.

Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck that was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck south-east of San Antonio.

Lorries emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s amid a surge in US border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.

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