At least 50 immigrants were found dead in the back of a tractor trailer in San Antonio on Monday, federal law enforcement officials confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday. Sixteen people – 12 adults and four children – were taken to local hospitals with heat-related injuries.
Federal officials told CBS News Homeland Security and Justice Correspondent Nicole Skanga that this appears to be the worst human trafficking case in modern American history.
On Tuesday morning, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebert said On Twitter, Citing U.S. officials, said the victims included 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans and two Hondurans. Investigators are yet to determine the nationality of those who died or were admitted to the hospital, Sganga reports.
Three people believed to be part of a suspected kidnapping plot have been detained by the Federal Agency for Homeland Security Investigations, Camilo Montoya-Calves, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, CBS News.
At a news conference Monday, police chief William McManus said officers received a call from a worker who called for help at 5:50 p.m. local time and that the trailer had its doors partially open. The worker found several dead bodies inside the trailer, McManus said.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said all 16 people taken to the hospital were found unconscious, although they were “weak” and could not leave the trailer. He said everyone was “hot to the touch” and suffered from heat-related injuries such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
He said there were no signs of water or air conditioning in the truck, and officials said it was unclear how long the group had been in the truck before they were found.
The victims were men and women and of different ages, but none of the dead appeared to be minors, officials said.
Hood said the first respondents were explained to help implement what they saw.
“You should not open a truck and look at the layers of bodies there,” he said. “None of us come to work imagining that.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Niranberg Called Situation “A terrible human tragedy.”
Law enforcement officials told CBS News that Homeland Security Investigations is leading an investigation into the incident and will work with the San Antonio Police Department.
The DHS said in a statement: “The tragedy near San Antonio is horrific.
An ICE spokesman said in a statement that Homeland Security had responded to the scene after receiving a call from the police department. A spokesman said more details would be released as the investigation continues.
More than 20 ambulances responded to the scene, CBS affiliate said KENS-TV Reported.