Tractor Trailer Containing 46 Dead Migrants 'Sprinkled with Seasoning' Found in San Antonio After Worker Hears Screams for 'Help'

Forty-six suspected migrants were found dead Monday evening inside an 18-wheel tractor-trailer apparently abandoned by its driver on the southwest side of San Antonio.

The 18-wheeler was found near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Authorities found 16 others, including 12 adults and 4 children, in the vehicle and rushed them to nearby hospitals, local officials said.

San Antonio migrant tragedy
The scene where a tractor trailer with multiple dead bodies was discovered, Monday, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio Twitter

Migrants May Have Died Due to Heat Stroke and Exhaustion

During a press conference Monday night, the San Antonio Police Department said that three people were in custody related to the deaths. The bodies were found shortly before 6 p.m. by a worker from a building near where the truck was parked on Interstate 35, officials said.

The worker heard calls for help coming from the truck and opened the rear doors to find the bodies and people inside. There was no air conditioning or water in the trailer, officials said. The people inside the trailer were hot to the touch and suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion. Temperatures on Monday rose to 100 degrees in San Antonio.

Migrants Sprinkled with Steak Seasoning to Cover up Smell

San Antonio migrant tragedy
The scene where a tractor trailer with multiple dead bodies was discovered, Monday, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio Twitter

According to a law enforcement official, it appears people were trying to jump out of the tractor-trailer because some of the deceased were found along several blocks. The tractor-trailer had a refrigeration system, the official said, but it did not appear to be working.

Many of the people found inside the vehicle appeared to have been sprinkled with steak seasoning, the official said, in perhaps an attempt to cover up the smell of people as the smugglers were transporting them, as reported by The Texas Tribune.

Authorities said the truck's doors were partly open when they arrived; a body was outside the vehicle and the rest could be seen inside. The city's fire chief, Charles Hood, said the survivors did not appear to have access to water and were too weak to exit the truck on their own.

Investigation of the tragedy has been taken over by the federal Department of Homeland Security's investigations division, officials said. Authorities were searching the woods around the truck for other possible victims, officials said. Police also said they were still looking for the driver.

'A Horrific Human Tragedy'

"This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a news conference near the scene.

The grim discovery appears to be one of the deadliest migration-related tragedies in recent U.S. history. In 2003, 19 migrants were found dead in the back of the back of a tractor trailer in Victoria. They were among a group of 70 people who were being smuggled into the country.

In July 2017, authorities found 39 undocumented immigrants in a sweltering tractor trailer in the parking lot of a Walmart on the South Side of San Antonio. Eight were already dead, and two more died later at area hospitals. The driver of the truck was sentenced to life in prison in 2018.