Some of the 50 migrants found dead inside a tractor trailer abandoned in Texas were reportedly sprinkled with steak seasoning in a possible bid by smugglers to cover up the stench.
A law enforcement officer revealed the horrifying detail to the Texas Tribune on Monday, shortly after the 18-wheeler involved was discovered by a city worker on the southwest side of San Antonio around 6 p.m. When authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered the gate of the tractor trailer slightly open and a body on the ground outside.
According to the Tribune’s police source, several more bodies were found along the blocks leading up to where the vehicle was left abandoned, suggesting some of them may have tried to escape the scorching heat.
Police Chief William McManus told reporters he was not confident that everyone who had been inside the truck had been accounted for, and that the total number of people being transported remains unclear.
Inside the truck, first responders found “stacks of bodies,” many of them “hot to touch,” Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
Authorities initially placed the death toll at 46, but the number of fatalities — among them 22 Mexican nationals, seven Guatemalan nationals, and two Honduran nationals — climbed to 50 by early Tuesday morning. Authorities continued to search the area along Quintana Road, where the truck was found, tucked between train tracks and auto salvage yards.
Another 16 people, 12 adults and four children, were rushed to the hospital severely dehydrated and with heat-related illnesses.
Hood said they did not appear to have any access to food or water while inside the vehicle, which did not have a working air conditioning unit. While weather in the San Antonio area was mostly cloudy Monday, temperatures still approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Federal investigators said they were working with local and state police to identify the victims, all of who are believed to be have been brought into the United States illegally through the border with Mexico. The nearest crossing is about 140 miles away.
Three people have so far been detained in connection with the incident, one of the deadliest in recent decades involving people attempting to enter the United States.