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At least 50 migrants dead in alleged human smuggling attempt involving tractor-trailer

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Updated Jun 29, 2022

Update -- Tuesday, June 28, 2 p.m. Central: According to a report from CNN, the death toll in the alleged human smuggling attempt in San Antonio has risen to 50, up from the 46 originally reported Monday evening. The news outlet reported that 48 people died at the scene, and two others died at an area hospital. 

Additionally, a South Texas-based trucking company, Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting, told the San Antonio Express-News that the truck containing the migrants was "cloned" to look like one of its own trucks. One of the company's owners, Felipe Betancourt Jr., told the news outlet that while the truck had the same colors and USDOT number as its trucks, the abandoned truck did not have the company's logo like the rest of its equipment. 

Betancourt also told the outlet his truck has not been in San Antonio recently and that his reefer trailer "is sitting right in the yard."

Original story follows: 

Authorities in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday discovered at least 46 people believed to be undocumented migrants dead inside an abandoned tractor-trailer in an apparent human smuggling attempt. Another 16 people were found alive in the trailer and transported to area hospitals with heat-related injuries.

During a press conference Monday night, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood described the scene when emergency personnel arrived as finding “stacks of bodies” inside the trailer.  

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said during the press conference that a worker near where the truck had been abandoned heard a cry for help coming from the truck and found the trailer with the doors partially open.

Hood noted that the trailer was a refrigerated trailer, but that “there was no visible, working A/C unit on that rig.” According to AccuWeather, temperatures in San Antonio hit 102 degrees Monday and were 100 or higher over the weekend.


McManus said three people had been taken into custody, but it was unclear “if they are absolutely connected to this or not,” he said.

The investigation has been turned over to the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigations unit.

This case of human smuggling is one of the deadliest in recent years. In 2017, a truck with 39 migrants was also found in San Antonio with 10 people deceased inside. The driver of that truck, James Bradley Jr., received two life sentences for his role in the case. 

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