The driver of a truck that killed 53 heat-smothered migrants in Texas did not know the air conditioning had stopped working, court documents show.
Homer Zamorano, 45, was found hiding near the truck Monday, authorities said. He is one of four people charged.
Zamorano and the alleged conspirator christian martinez28, are accused of texting each other before and after the vehicle was found.
The incident in San Antonio is the deadliest human trafficking case in recent US history.
Several children found in the truck are still being treated at the hospital. The victims were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Zamorano, who was found hiding in the bushes, initially tried to pose as one of the survivors, Mexican authorities explained.
But he was eventually arrested when surveillance photos showed him driving the truck past a US Border Patrol checkpoint in Laredo, Texas.
According to federal court documents, a confidential government informant who works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Texas police told officials that Zamorano and Martinez had spoken after the deaths were reported.
Martinez allegedly said: “The driver did not know that the air conditioning unit stopped working and that was the reason why the people died.”
The documents add that the informant and Martínez were several meters apart when the conversation took place.
Both suspects face death penalty If they are found guilty of the charges of smuggling and conspiracy.
Two other men accused of being involved, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Méndez and Francisco D’Luna-Bilbaohave been charged with possession of firearms and being in the US illegally. They are both Mexican citizens.
The victims include 27 Mexican citizens, 14 Hondurans, seven Guatemalans and two Salvadorans.
However, Mexican authorities say a total of 67 migrants were inside the truck, while prosecutors in San Antonio have put the number at 64.
On Friday, the Bexar County medical examiner’s office said it had “conclusively identified” six of the 53 victims in Monday’s incident.
In addition, 42 “potential identifications” have been made. Five remain unidentified.
Also Friday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office began investigating a apparently abandoned 18 wheeler which was found in a residential area a few miles north of where the first vehicle was found.
Near 13 migrants they were found in the most recent truck, officials told CBS News.
“Preliminarily, it appears that no one has been seriously injured,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook, adding that more details would be released once they were available.
large scale industry
Human smuggling is a major industry along the US-Mexico border.
In May, a record 239,000 undocumented immigrants were detained crossing into the country from Mexico.
Such mass deaths have been discovered on several occasions around the world in recent times. Among the worst cases are:
- Austria, 27 of august 2015: An abandoned truck with a Hungarian license plate was found containing the bodies of 71 Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan immigrants. Three years later, four men received 25-year jail terms in Hungary in connection with the deaths.
- Libia, 20 february 2017: Dozens of African migrants were found locked in a shipping container, including 13 people who had suffocated to death.
- United Kingdom23 october 2019: A total of 39 Vietnamese immigrants were found dead in the trailer of a truck in Essex. Four men were jailed for his manslaughter in January 2021
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