A U.S. grand jury has indicted four men, including the alleged driver, in connection with the death of 53 migrants in the intense heat during a smuggling attempt last month in San Antonio, Texas.
The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office has reported that of the 53 bodies in the custody of the medical examiner’s office, 40 are male, and 13 are female.
It’s the deadliest incident of human smuggling in U.S. history.
Dozens of migrants were jammed into the back of the tractor-trailer found outside of San Antonio on June 27.
A San Antonio federal grand jury returned an indictment against Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas announced.
The men were charged with a count of conspiracy to transport and transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death.
They were also charged with conspiracy to transport and transportation of aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.
If convicted, Zamorano and Martinez could face life in prison or the death penalty.
A grand jury also returned indictments against two Mexican citizens suspected of possessing a firearm while unlawfully present in the United States.
Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The truck was carrying migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
It was discovered abandoned in a desolate industrial area about 160 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 18-wheeler went through a border patrol checkpoint but wasn’t inspected.
Temperatures in the area that day had soared as high as 103 Fahrenheit.
In addition to the 50 adults and three children that died, ten adults and one child were transported to area hospitals with injuries. Officials described the incident as a “mass casualty event.”
The surviving victims were hot to the touch, all suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion.
They suffered horrendously for what could have been for hours
Charles Hood, the San Antonio fire chief, told reporters that the tractor-trailer was refrigerated, but there was no water or visible working air conditioning unit inside.
Unsure how long people inside the truck had been dead,
the Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio acting special agent, Craig Larrabee, described the incident as “the U.S. worst human-smuggling event.”
“In the past, smuggling organizations were mom and pop. Now they are organized and tied in with the cartels. So you have a criminal organization that has no regard for the safety of the migrants. They are treated like commodities rather than people,” Larrabee told CNN.
President Joe Biden issued a statement Tuesday calling the deaths “horrifying and heartbreaking,” blaming the criminal alien smuggling industry for preying on migrants.
Biden also highlighted the U.S.’s anti-smuggling efforts, which have led to more than 2,400 arrests.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tweeted he was “heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and am praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
“Far too many lives have been lost as individuals — including families, women, and children — take this dangerous journey,” he went on to Tweet.
“Human smugglers are callous individuals who have no regard for the vulnerable people they exploit and endanger in order to make a profit. We will work alongside our partners to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable and continue to take action to disrupt smuggling networks.”
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