More than 50 people died from heat-related injuries inside an abandoned semi-truck in southwest San Antonio, and now federal investigators are attempting to piece together what happened, KENS 5 reported.
Bexar County officials and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Tuesday that the death toll had risen to 51.
Among the 16 reported injuries were four youths and a dozen adults who were transported to local hospitals. The ages of the deceased have not been reported yet.
First responders said upon arrival, they initially found 46 bodies inside the vehicle. San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said Monday that 16 people were found alive inside the truck and were taken to local hospitals.
Five victims were taken to Baptist Hospital, two to Texas Vista Medical Center, and two to University Hospital.
Police have not released the names or nationalities of the victims. They have also not confirmed this was a human smuggling operation. If the investigation determines it was, the incident will be recorded as the deadliest smuggling attempt in U.S. history.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said three people were taken into custody, but it is unclear whether they’re “absolutely connected to this or not.”
A heavy law enforcement presence, including more than 20 emergency vehicles, was deployed to the area of Quintana Road and Cassin Drive around 6 p.m. Monday, converging at the truck. At least 60 firefighters and 10 medical units responded as well.
Hood said the victims appeared to be suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion, adding that authorities found no signs of water or air conditioning in the truck.
McManus said he expected the effort to find all survivors to stretch into the hours and days ahead. “We had our K-9s out here going through the woods, and we may have to do that again tomorrow in the light of day,” he said.
While it has not been confirmed, it is believed that the occupants of the trailer were unlawful migrants.
U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro tweeted Monday night that he has been in contact with the secretary of Homeland Security. Referring to the 46 people who had died, he said they were “most likely the victims of merciless human smugglers.”
The local FBI office is also assisting in the investigation.
Homeland Security officials said in a statement that “details will be released as they are available.”