46 people found dead in tractor-trailer after suspected smuggling incident in Texas: Officials

At least 46 people were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio in a suspected human trafficking case, officials said Monday.

An additional 16 people – 12 adults and four children – were taken to regional hospitals in what officials called a “mass accident incident”.

San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus said a nearby worker heard a cry for help at around 5:50 p.m. local time and partially opened the trailer and found several dead people inside.

According to officials, it was a refrigerated tractor-trailer but did not have a working air-conditioning unit or water.

San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said the victims were taken to area hospitals and they were warm and all were suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Hood said no children had died that authorities were aware of.

Three people are in custody, officials said, in what is now a federal investigation.

Photo: Members of law enforcement check a tractor trailer in San Antonio, Texas, June 27, 2022, where at least 46 people were found dead.

Members of law enforcement examine a tractor trailer, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas, where at least 46 people were found dead. More than a dozen victims were found alive, suffering from heat stroke and taken to local hospitals.

Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson told ABC News that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) responded Monday about an alleged call. human trafficking incident and, upon arrival at the scene, confirmed the deaths of over 40 people.

“HSI continues its enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities. We will continue to address the serious public safety threat posed by human trafficking organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of traffickers,” ICE spokesperson said. “To report suspicious activity, we encourage people to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. All calls are kept confidential.”

Photo: Police block the scene where a tractor trailer with multiple bodies was discovered on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.

Police block the scene where a tractor trailer with multiple bodies was discovered on June 27, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas.

Eric Gay/AP

Homeland Security Investigations, the branch of ICE responsible for taking down the trafficking network, confirmed in a statement that the incident is being treated as a suspected case of human trafficking.

“Details will be released as they become available, with the criminal investigation continuing,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement. “HSI continues its enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities.”

Photo: Emergency vehicles respond to the scene of at least 42 people found dead in an 18-wheeler on the southwest side of San Antonio, Texas, June 27, 2022.

Emergency vehicles respond to the scene of at least 42 people found dead in an 18-wheeler on the Southwest Side of San Antonio, Texas, on June 27, 2022.


San Antonio Fire-Rescue told ABC News that HSI and CBP are investigating with local San Antonio officials.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said he was “horrified” by the incident.

“Frightened by this tragic loss of life near San Antonio,” Magnus said in response to the news. “It speaks to the desperation of migrants who will lay down their lives at the hands of harsh human traffickers who show no respect for human life.”

CBP is the U.S. Border Patrol’s umbrella agency, responding to assistance at the scene and is supporting ICE in the federal investigation.

“We will work with our federal, state and local partners to do everything we can to assist in this investigation,” Magnus said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alexander Meyerkasi tweeted That he was “heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and is praying for those who are still fighting for their lives.”

“Many lives lost as individuals – including families, women and children – take this perilous journey,” he wrote, writing: “Human traffickers are tough individuals who have no regard for the vulnerable. What they exploit and are in danger to make a profit. We will work with our partners to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable and continue to take action to disrupt the smuggling network.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released more details on the Biden administration’s efforts to combat human trafficking and unauthorized migration in conjunction with the America Summit held in Los Angeles.

The series of operations launched in the Western Hemisphere is part of the largest human trafficking operation the region has ever seen, arresting more than 1,300 deployed personnel and nearly 2,000 smugglers in just two months.

Agencies throughout the administration, including the intelligence community and the US Treasury Department, have worked to disrupt smuggling operations in real time and siphon off the financial backing of international criminal organizations that coordinate these crimes.

“The Biden administration is focused on putting these organizations out of business,” DHS said in a recent statement ahead of the event. “But human trafficking is, by definition, an international problem and we remain committed to working with our regional partners in the US to commit our collective expertise and resources to ending human trafficking.”

ABC News’ Josh Margolin, Luke Barr and Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.

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