The bodies of 46 people believed to be migrants were found in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio on Monday in what appeared to be one of the deadliest human-smuggling incidents in recent U.S. history.
About 5:50 p.m., a worker heard a cry for help and found a trailer with the doors partially open, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said. The worker opened the doors, found “a number of deceased individuals inside” and called police.
Firefighters found a body outside the trailer and several inside in the area of 9600 Quintana Road, in the southwestern part of the city, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
First responders described seeing bodies piled on top of one another inside the trailer.
Sixteen survivors — 12 adults and four minors — were taken to hospitals, Hood said.
“The patients that we saw were hot to the touch,” he said. “They were suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion. (There were) no signs of water in the vehicle. It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible, working AC unit on that rig.”
Temperatures in the area were as high as 99 degrees Monday.
Those who survived, mostly young adults, were too weak to get out of the trailer, Hood said.
A spokesperson for University Hospital in San Antonio confirmed the facility was treating two patients in critical condition.
Three people are in custody, McManus said, but authorities “don’t know if they are absolutely connected to this or not.” The investigation has been turned over to U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.