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Death toll in San Antonio rises to 50, trucking company says vehicle was ‘cloned’

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On Tuesday, new information was released on the horrific death of dozens of people found in the trailer of an abandoned truck in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday evening.

Death Toll Rises in San Antonio Suspected Human Smuggling Incident

Officials say that the number of people who perished in a hot trailer in San Antonio on Monday has risen from 46 to 50 people, with 48 people pronounced dead at the scene and two other people dying in hospital care after suffering from heat related illness, according to CNN.

Dozens of bodies were discovered around 6 p.m. on Monday after a worker heard a cry for help and went to investigate a truck near railroad tracks in the 9600 block of Quintana Road.

“(They) found a trailer with the doors partially open and opened them up to take a look and found a number of deceased individuals inside,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon confirmed that the victims included Mexican nationals, Guatemalans, and Hondurans.

Three people are currently in police custody in connection with the incident.

Temperatures climbed to more than 100 degrees in the area on Monday.

Trucking Company Says Vehicle Was Cloned

While the vehicle involved bears the colors and DOT number of Alamo-based Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting, company leaders say that the vehicle information was “cloned” or illegally copied. They say that their truck has been used to haul grain from Harlingen to Progreso and has not been in San Antonio recently, and that their trailer is in the company lot.

“Our [refrigerated trailer] is sitting right in the yard. That one in San Antonio is not our trailer,” Felipe Betancourt Jr told San Antonio Express-News.

San Antonio Mayor, White House, Homeland Security Investigations Release Statements

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, “This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy.”

The White House released the following statement on the incident:

The tragic loss of life in San Antonio, Texas that took place yesterday is horrifying and heartbreaking.  Our prayers are with those who lost their lives, their loved ones, as well as those still fighting for their lives. As always, I am grateful for the swift work of all of the Federal, state, and local first responders.

While we are still learning all the facts about what happened and the Department of Homeland Security has the lead for the investigation, initial reports are that this tragedy was caused by smugglers or human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit.

This incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths. In Los Angeles two weeks ago, I announced that the United States has launched a first-of-its kind anti-smuggling campaign with our regional partners.  In the first three months, we have made over 2,400 arrests, and that work will only intensify in the months ahead.  

Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has taken control of the investigation.

From HSI: “On June 27, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) responded to a call from San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) in reference to an alleged human smuggling event involving a tractor trailer on Quintana Road near Cassin Road. Upon arrival in the scene, HSI confirmed more than 40 deceased individuals.HSI San Antonio has initiated an investigation with support of SAPD. Details will be released as they are available, the criminal investigation remains ongoing.

See a video statement from the San Antonio Police Department below.

This is a developing story.

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